24 September 2008

DNA: The Epstein-Horowitz-Benveniste Projects

Are you an Epstein? Do you know an Epstein? What about a Horowitz or the many variations of this name? Or a Benveniste?

Itzhak Epstein of New York is looking for Epsteins around the world to participate in a DNA project designed to see how the various family branches are related ... or not.

Itzhak's project is at FamilyTreeDNA.com and can also be accessed through JewishGen. At the bottom of that link, check the map which shows heavy concentration of participant origins in Belarus and environs.

Itzhak recently wrote about the progress of this project to encourage others to participate in the painless mouth swab procedure.

We are working on identifying the various branches of our principal cluster, identifying additional members of our minor clusters, and on connecting our members to cousins. To accomplish this goal and to create as broad a search as possible, we need more male EPSTEINs to contribute a cheek swab as a DNA sample.

If you are female or an EPSTEIN through female ancestors, a sample from an EPSTEIN male relative can represent your family in the test. If you are not an EPSTEIN please share this post with male EPSTEINs who may want to participate in this project.

Names in this project include Ast, Chernin, Easton, Ebstein, Eppstein, Epshteyn, Epsteen, Epstein, Epsten, Epstien, Epsztajn, Epsztein, Epsztejn, Esten, Eylat, Levin-Epstein, Levitsky, Mulwitz, Ochs and Polonovsky.

Through the end of September - what a great Rosh Hashana gift from Family Tree DNA - prices are discounted and two tests even include a free mtDNA test for the price of the Y-DNA test only!

To join the EPSTEIN surname project through JewishGen, which receives a portion of the proceeds for each test ordered through this link, click here.

To date, the project has 38 tested members, with a principal cluster of 15 members, who were mostly strangers to each other, yet appear to be related.

According to Itzhak, these members are likely descended from the historic EPSTEINs of Frankfurt am Mein, in the late 14th century.

- Four of the 15 cannot identify any EPSTEIN ancestry, but are included because of their uniquely close genetic relationship.

- Seven pairs of project members may also be mutually related.

- The other nine members are unrelated to any other current EPSTEIN surname project member.

- Most members are closely related to men whose surnames are other than EPSTEIN.

The tentative conclusion is that about half of the EPSTEIN ancestors chose the surname when authorities mandated Jews to take surnames in the early 19th century.

Other families are either related to the historic EPSTEINs from before the original surname's origination in Frankfurt or are EPSTEINs who chose a different surname at a later date.

To join the EPSTEIN surname project through JewishGen, which receives a portion of the proceeds for each test ordered through this link, click here.

As for the historic EPSTEIN ancient origins, says Itzhak, the haplogroup shows that ancient origins are probably in the Alps and not in the Levant.

Modern Epstein genealogy started with the publication of Gvurot He'ari by Efrayim Mordechai Epstein in 1888 and the issuance the Epstein family tree by Shim'on Arye Epstein in 1908. Both document ancestry back to the mid-17th Century. There are also references to earlier but lost Epstein genealogies. Family tradition connects us to the Benvenestes of medieval Spain. The historic Epsteins are Levites. There is a documented Levite Epstein family in Frankfurt aM in the 15th Century. Nevertheless, at this stage of Y-DNA research, we are unsure of whether there is more than one historic Epstein family.

Most of the tested HOROWITZ share a modal haplotype with about 50% of Ashkenazi Levites and there are also Khazar speculations. The EPSTEIN belong to a haplogroup whose ancient origins are probably in central Europe and rare in Iberia.

For more information about the project, click here.

There is also another twist to the story that needs more volunteers. Itzhak is asking for Sephardic families named BENVENISTE to test for another FamilyTreeDNA project here.

Two prominent Ashkenazi families claim descent from two brothers who lived in Spain during the 13th Century CE. The Epsteins’ alleged patriarch is Rabbi Aharon de na Clara ben Yosef haLevi. The Horowitzes’ alleged patriarch is Rabbi Pinhas, Rabbi Aharon’s older brother and mentor. These brothers are the direct male descendants of Rabbi Zerahyah ben Yitzhak haLevi Gerondi (died after 1186). Epstein family lore asserts that Aharon’s surname was Benveniste.

The first known male Horowitz is Yishayahu ben Moshe haLevi Ish Horowitz who came to Prague in the late15th Century from the village of Horovice. The first known male Epstein is Yaakov (Koppelman) ben Natan haLevi von Eppstein who came to Frankfurt am Main in the early 15th Century from the town of Eppstein.

Benvenistes were prominent in Spain and, after the expulsion, were prominent in the Balkans. We do not know whether there have been several Benveniste families or only one. We know that many Jews assumed the Epstein and Horowitz surnames in he 19th Century.

Itzhak says that from the EPSTEIN and HOROWITZ participants he has, they are probably not related. However the sample is still very small and more research - and participants - are required.

Says Itzhak, "Though my research is not that scientific, the Epsteins' and Horowitzes' most recent common ancestor was "R1" who allegedly lived around 18,500 years ago."

Why not participate now and learn more about your family and further the goals of these projects? The more participants in the projects, the more likely are matches. Learn more about your family and yourself, and enjoy the special FamilyTreeDNA discounts through September 30.

Help solve a mystery, learn more about your origins and receive a discount. What could be better?


  1. Please add Berman to your Epstein list. I urged my maternal uncle Sam P. Berman to do the DNA test to find our Berman's and went through the Berman surname project, and no Berman's matched, only Levitt, Levitan, and Levin and Epstein! My maternal grandmother was the daughter of Masha Levin, a Rabbi Levin's and Sara Singer, also a daughter of Rabbi Singer. , at 37 marker Levin Epstein and Epstein, no Berman!
    My maternal Grandmother. Said that Her Levin line went back centuries and all rabbinical, five brothers originally Luria, and parents died or were killed and a kind Levin family adopted all of them or a couple of them? They all became Levin rabbis. Gurevich was connected, as an aunt married a Gurevich, who for all I know could have been cousins as so many Singer and Levin cousins married in my families, considered a mitzvah. The story of the Levite Rabbis was confirmed by Eilat Gordan Levitan with info he sent me about a long Levin line in 1700's Germany, thru early 1800s. My grandmother's cousin Yitchak Gurevich came to the house here upon arrival from Vilnius in the late 70s and told us of his connection to Granma Lieba/lily Chidekel Berman, daugter of Levin, who was his mother's sister, whom my grand mother told me she used to visit w kids, a dressmaker widow. All wer in Vilna Giberna.

    I did the DAA tests and I am from The Halpogroup H6 one of the oldest from Arabians, the Middle East, which is my maternal line, which matches what you a
    Referred to for the line. Kkirshner@aol.com, East Meadow, NY, USA.

  2. Anonymous5:34 PM

    I am a Mulwitz. How do I sign up?