Cohanim and Levites #dna


In a message dated 10/4/2002 12:48:54 PM Eastern Daylight Time, writes:

<< I am confused about something. According to the FAQ people were asked if
were Cohanim, Levites or Israel. What I don't understand is if Levites are
descended >from Moses, and Cohanim >from Aaron, since they were brothers
wouldn't all Cohanim really be Levites? Is there is a distinctive gene for
Levites? >>

==And Levi was one of twelve brothers, and Jacob had a brother Esau and Isaac
had a brother Ishmael. So all the people descended >from the Semites/the
Middle East should have the same genes.

One of the realities is that the Kohen line was scrupulously preserved and
controlled. There was no such stringent control over Levites. Some, in fact,
hold that non-Levites were recruited to the Levite office at the time of the
restoration of the Temple, because of the iandequate number of Levite
returnees >from Babylonian exile to fulfill the duties in the temple. (Unlike
the Cohanim, who lived off their special perks of office and had no other
trade, the Levites--teachers, scribes, musicians, singers--could support
themselves well in exile.

As I recall, the researchers of the original work on Kohanim repeated their
studies on Levi'im and found three separate genetic strains predominating
among these, which is compatible with the theory of non-Levite recruitment

Michael Bernet, New York <>

WOLFF (Pfungstadt, Frankfurt/M, Koenigsberg, Amsterdam, N.Carolina);
(Schwabach, Hagenbach & Fuerth); KONIGSHOFER (anywhere); BERG, WOLF(F),
(Demmelsdorf & Zeckendorf); Shim`on GUTENSTEIN (Bad Homburg ca 1760);
FRENSDORF/ER (anywhere); MAINZER (Lorsch); anyone in Ermreuth or Floss;

Janet Arnold <yomi427@...>

I am confused about something. According to the FAQ people were asked if they
were Cohanim, Levites or Israel. What I don't understand is if Levites are
descended >from Moses, and Cohanim >from Aaron, since they were brothers
wouldn't all Cohanim really be Levites? Is there is a distinctive gene for Levites?

Thank you,
J. Arnold


I have another doubt. My surname is Levites and we were told that we were Israel. How come? Who decides? This doesn't make sense to me.

Barbara Mannlein <bsmannlein@...>

Why not?  my dad’s family were Levites and the surname was Stern.  My husband was also a Levite and the last name is Mannlein,

Also, people changed their names when they moved to new areas, or for social or business reasons.  Some men married into Levite families when did not have male children and assumed the family name to continue the lime, but since Levitical status is conferred thru the male line, they are not Levites.  

Not all men bearing the surnames Kohen.Kagan,Cohen,Kahn, Kahana, Kaplan,Rapaport,Katz are Cohens…..  

Barbara S. Mannlein
Tucson, Arizona

On Jun 20, 2020, at 9:39 PM, kastamp via <> wrote:

I have another doubt. My surname is Levites and we were told that we were Israel. How come? Who decides? This doesn't make sense to me.


I know a family called Cohen who are Levites. And another one who are israelites. In both cases when their forefather came to England, the immigration authorities had problems with the spelling of their decisively foreign name and on the spot "renamed" them and registered them as "Cohen"

Sally Bruckheimer

When an immigrant chose a name in a new place, he chose whatever he wanted. When family names were adopted in Eastern Europe, a Jew chose whatever he wanted also.



Names were NOT changed by immigration authorities. Passenger names appeared on the ship manifests on departure and were completed by clerks fluent in the languages of the passengers.

Please do not continue to spread this mis-information.

Michael Tobias
Glasgow, Scotland

Todd Leavitt

My family name is "Levitsky", but Big Y DNA testing (haplogroup/terminal SNP R-YP6547) apparently does not qualify (per Meir HaLevi Gover) as consistent with the Levite genetic signature(s). So it goes....


Your status in the Kohen-Levite-Israel trichotomy is inherited from your father and began well before surnames were introduced.  There are some surnames that are common for Kohanim and others for Levi'im, but having one of these surnames doesn't establish that you are in that group.
To identify the relationship between your surname and your status in this trichotomy, I'd focus on back-tracking the surname.  Where does it come from geographically?  Have you been told anything about how it was acquired?  Start there.
Yale Zussman


The Cohen lines (Kohanim, or priestly class) are descended from Aaron, while the Levites are a tribe.
One is Jewish IF one's mother is Jewish, however one's tribal status was given by the father.
Therefore, while my mother is a Kohanim "ha-Cohen", I am not because my father was not Jewish.
I am "ha-Isreal" or of Jacob.


Point of information:  All true Cohanim are also Leviim since Aaron and Moses came from the tribe of Levi.  What you mean to say is that they were Leviim but not Cohanim, despite the Cohen surname.
The story that the immigration authorities changed the surname at the port of entry to the US or any other country is almost always false, since they would copy the surname from the ship's registry.  However, I know one guy, very highly educated both secularly, in Torah and Talmud, and genealogy, who insists it happened in his family.  In this case, of his immigrant ancestor from Poland/Lithuania—the story goes—the surname was long and complicated and at least partially illegible.  As a result, he claims that the immigration agent at Ellis Island "shortened" it to Levine.  They are not Leviim. 

Marc M. Cohen, Los Gatos, California, USA

BARAK/CANTORCZY: Khotin, Bessarabia; Strorozhinets, Bukovina, Ukraine
CHOMITZ/HAMETZ: Ionina (Janina), Greece; Ignatovka, Ukraine; Kiev Gubernia, Ukraine
COHEN: Dinovitsi (Dunayevtsy) Ukraine; Roman/Tirgu Frumos, Romania
KORNITZKY: Kiev Gubernia, Stepnitz/Stepantsy, Ukraine
RÎBNER: Storozhinetz, Costesti (Costyntsi), Drachinets, Cabesti, Bukovina, Ukraine
ROSENBERG: Tirgu Frumos, Roman, Romania; ISRAEL
WEININGER: Cabesti, Costesti, Drachinets, Czernowitz, Bukovina, Ukraine

Jill Whitehead

DNA studies show that many Cohenim share a common direct line male Ydna signal (a variant of J2 haplogroup) and many Levites also share a separate and different direct male line Ydna signal (a variant of R1a haplogroup). However this does not apply to all those who may have these surnames. You are recommended to take a dna haplogroup test, if you are male with such a name to see if you share the Cohenite or Levite dna signatures.

Jill Whitehead, Surrey, UK

Martyn Woolf

The likelihood of immigration authorities just handing out the name Cohen, is remote.  It just didn't happen.
My name is Moshe ben Josef Woolf HaLevi. That is the name used in the synagogue.  My surname is Woolf.

Fred son of Charlie Smith HaLevi, would still be Fred Smith.

Fred Selss

I am not an expert or anything but I have a little insight into how one might find out f they are descended from a Cohanim . Sometimes an engraving on gravestone can let family know that a Cohanim or a Levite is buried there. A hand with fingers split in the middle like the Vulcan sign from Star Trek is common for Cohanim 🖖🏼 and a pitcher of water is common for a Levite.
The finger split is an genetic inherited trait that can only be performed by someone that has a Cohanim ancestor. My father was a Cohanim and I can do this with my fingers. My sons can do it also, inheriting this trait from me and their maternal grandfather. But their own father is an Israelite so my sons are not considered Cohanim. This special trait of splitting fingers can’t be be preformed by their father. So if you can’t split your fingers, you can infer that you are not descended from Cohanim but if you can, it doesn’t mean your are one because you could have inherited that genetic trait from your mother but not the Cohanim designation.
My father as Cohanim was often called to bless a congregation and he would hold out both hands with his fingers split and recite the priestly blessing.
Also getting back to grave stones, after my father’s and grandfathers names written in Hebrew it says Ha Cohan. Other family members have Ha Levite in Hebrew written after their names. By the way, my grandfather’s last name was BROK which I always assumed was a translation of Baruch or blessed. The family later changed it to Brooks in NY. My grandfather was from what is now GOLUB-DOBRZYN which now is in POLAND but was part of PRUSSIA and RUSSIA


Sarah L Meyer

There are religious reasons why some Cohanim lose their Cohen status.  Interestingly my father was an Israel, but when I had two paternal "second" cousins DNA done, I was asked after the first one was done whether we were Kohanim.  Then when the second Y test came back, I knew.  My paternal great grandfather had married a woman with children - including a son (and while they may not have set out to hide that her two children were not his), it happened because the blended family was raised as one family.   Since they did not want to distinguish that Aaron Jacob ("Jack") was an Israel while Henry was a Kohen - everyone became Israel.
Sarah L Meyer
Georgetown TX
BIRGARDOVSKY, EDELBERG, HITE (CHAIT), PERCHIK Russia (southern Ukraine) and some Latvia or Lithuania

Schelly Talalay Dardashti

No one's name was shortened or changed at Ellis Island by any clerk. The guy is wrong unless he can show the original manifest showing the old name crossed out and a new name written in. His religious qualifications have nothing to do with his repeating an erroneous story that never happened because the multilingual clerks were firbidden to do that at ALL US Ports of Entry. He could have however shortened it himself the minute he stepped into the city. Please do not perpetuate the biggest myth in genealogy.

Schelly Talalay Dardashti

There are at least 4 DNA signatures for Kohanim and at least 4 or more for Levites. Also, there is historical evidence for (and Jewish law permits it) for the appointing of a Kohan in a place where all Kohanim were either gone (died, murdered, etc.). One would think a Levite (the closest to a Kohan) would be appointed, but perhaps an Israelite might have been appointed. The simple fact that there are numerous haplogroups for Kohanim and for Levites indicates diverse origins.

Schelly Talalay Dardashti
New Mexico
TALALAI/AY/AJ - Mogilev, Bel.
BANK - Kovno/Kedainai, Lith.
DARDASHTI - Isfahan/Teheran, Iran

Schelly Talalay Dardashti

The ability to make the so-called Cohen (or Vulcan, even though "Dr. Spock" Leonard Nimoy was a Kohain) finger spread is absolutely not genetic. It is not in the same category as the ability to roll one's tongue - which IS genetic. 

Schelly Talalay Dardashti
New Mexico
TALALAI/AY/AJ - Mogilev, Bel.
BANK - Kovno, Kedainai, Lith.
DARDASHTI - Isfahan/Teheran, Iran


Fred selss wrote: ' The finger split is an genetic inherited trait that can only be performed by someone that has a Cohanim ancestor'.

It is not a matter of genetic, hence it is not inheruted. It's quite easy to perform and almost every one can do it.


Do you know of any documentation of a genetic link for kohanim and the ability split their fingers? I'm a kind of skeptical about it.
While genetics might be involved in the ability to split your fingers this is definitely not exclusive to cohanim. I am a yisrael and can split my fingers but remember a teacher of mine who was a Cohen saying that as a child he had to practice spreading his fingers by wedging a plastic cup between his fingers, so it didn't seem to come easy to him despite his cohanic genes.