Kin Groups and Descent. Matrilineal descent groups ( suku ) vary in size and segmentary organization, depending on the vicissitudes of reproductive and economic success over many generations. Some scholars cite myths and terms for groups as evidence of moiety and phratry organization, but these features are not actually present in Minangkabau society. The largest social grouping below the nagari level is the matriclan or suku (quarter), of which there are usually four or more. Matriclans are subdivided into subclans that are also referred to as suku except when distinguishing them from other segmentary levels of organization. In that case, the subclan may be called a payuang, or "umbrella," in reference to the symbol of office of the elected leader of such a group. Members of the same subclan may not be able to trace genealogical relationships but nonetheless consider themselves close relatives. Each subclan is subdivided into genealogically isolated lineages, for which there is no special term. Lineages are subdivided into lesser units that can be distinguished as sabuah paruik or "of one womb." These are the primary corporate landholding units. Finally, the sabuah paruik consists of several small domestic groups called urang sapariuak (persons of one cooking pot). Some of these units consist of more than one household. Royal kinship was patrilineal.
Kinship Terminology. Terminology is generational or Hawaiian in type. However, special terms for mother's brother ( mamak ) and for sister's child ( kamanakan ), and other expressions identifying groups of relatives with common interests in property— dunsanak sainiyek (relatives with the same remote ancestress), dunsanak sa'uci (relatives with the same great-grandmother), and dunsanak sa'anduang (relatives with the same grandmother)—clearly indicate the importance of matrilineal descent.