Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Cognates Definition:

Relations through the mother.

Related Terms: Agnatio

Cognates or, as they were known in Roman law, cognati, are relatives on the mother's side and are distisguished from the agnatio, relatives on the father's side.

At page 234, Book 2 of his Commentaries on the Laws of England (1756), William Blackstone explained now-outdated estate law as follows:

"[T]he male stocks shall be preferred to the female; (that is, kindred derived from the blood of the male ancestors shall be admitted before those from the blood of the female) unless where the lands have, in fact, descended from a female. Thus the relations on the father's side are admitted in infinitum, before those on the mother's side are admitted at all; and the relations of the father's father, before those of the father's mother; and so on. And in this the English law is not singular, but warranted by the examples of the Hebrew and Athenian laws.... though among the Greeks ... when a man died without wife or children, all his kindred (without any distinction) divided his estate among them. It is likewise warranted by the example of the Roman laws ; wherein the agnati, or relations by the father, were preferred to the cognati, or relations by the mother, till the edict of the emperor Justinian abolished all distinction between them."


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