Re: Tracing a Kohen (with note on Nebenzahls and genetics) #general

Candice Bradley and Daniel Byrne <djbyrne@...>

In response to Stan Goodman's comment, "If a man is a Kohen, his sons, all
of them are also Kohanim. There are no other rules for the transmission. It
moves in the paternal line only, never in the maternal."

I also believed this, but I'm not so sure any more. A Galicia researcher
on this list and I have a common family name (Nebenzahl) which supposedly
is a single family. Although the male Nebenzahls of my family essentially
"daughtered out," the Nebenzahl men in my line were Kohanim. However,
this researcher told me that the Nebenzahls in Galicia were not Kohanim,
and explained that he found in his research evidence of some matrilineal
transmission which might explain why my Nebenzahls are Kohanim. His
argument is interesting food for thought.

In anthropological studies of kinship (I am an anthropologist) we see that
matrilineal descent does not mean "matriarchy," but rather reckoning of
descent through male relatives related through the uterine line (in other
words, men related to one another through mothers). In Swaziland, for
example, the male kingship is inherited matrilineally; a man sits on the
throne and his mother sits behind him. This is how matrilineality
commonly works.

I hope this Galicia researcher who knows about the Nebenzahl line and the
Kohan claim of my ancestors also responds to your note, although I believe
he is now in the middle of a cross-country move.

In the meantime, I read an interesting scientific article online recently
(can't remember where, although I think it was linked on a Sephardic
website) that talked about the genetics of being a Kohan. Apparently this
inherited priestly cast originated before the Sephardic Ashkenazi split.

I have no stake in either argument (for or against some matrilineal
transmission of Kohans) and am not taking a stand. However, one of the
truisms of human social life is that all cultures have rules and
traditions, and in every culture those rules and traditions are broken,
twisted and circumvented. How the rules are broken and twisted is also
part of the culture.

Candice Bradley
Appleton WI

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