The Cohen surname is an extremely common one in Jewish populations, as common in Jewish genealogy as Jones and Smith are for non-Jewish populations. And, just as not all Jones's and Smith's are related, neither are all the Cohens in our tree related. In many cases, the surname was originally something else, and was changed to Cohen when family members emigrated from Poland, Russia or Germany to the United States or to other countries.

Historically, the Jewish Kohane or Cohanim are one of the twelve tribes of Israel. Membership in the tribe is passed down from fathers to their children, and their female children remain Cohanim until marriage, at which time they take on the tribal membership of their husbands.

In fact, tribal membership is also recorded on traditional Jewish tombstones in their Hebrew inscriptions. So, one way of checking for tribal membership is to study tombstone inscriptions. These generally indicate tribal membership for the Cohane and for Levite fathers of both men and women.

If assimilation has taken it's toll on the amount of detail on your ancestors' Hebrew inscriptions in Western countries, one can always attempt to locate the monuments of ancestors who passed away fifty to a hundred years ago, which may be more traditional. And, you do not have to hire a professional translator if you do not know Hebrew. You might try learning the basics of how to read a Hebrew tombstone using the following, very simple guide:


Or you can ask at a nearby synagogue, or online in Jewish forums and chat rooms, or at JewishGen's ViewMate.

Lest They Be Forgotten

Yad Vashem is the official Holocaust memorial website with a huge searchable database. If you are a Holocaust survivor, have relatives, ancestors or friends who perished in the Holocaust, or know anyone who does, please do take a few moments to record and preserve the memories of those who were killed by submitting their names and stories, and encourage others to do the same, to keep these loved ones from being forgotten.
But, whether or not it is recorded on tombstones, Cohanim descendency is remembered through time and the tradition of tribal membership preserved because Cohanim, even today, are called to the Torah before Levites and then members of the other tribes. So, if a family went to synagogue, temple, or shul at all, even once a year for High Holy Days, chances are that the tradition of membership as Cohanim will be preserved, no matter what the surname.

But remember, just bearing the Cohen surname does not make one a Cohanim, the ongoing tradition of tribal lineage is what makes someone a member of the tribe. Theoretically, this would mean every male Cohanim is a direct line descendant of the Biblical Cohanim.

But whether or not they are Cohanim, we have many Cohens and Cohen descendants in our family tree, and this page is devoted to summarizing the genealogical history of these various families. If you are a member of our family and have any Cohen ancestors or information you would like to see added to this page, please do contact us.


Casper Cohen was born in the 1830's and was at first a shoemaker, and then a glazier and picture frame maker when he migrated to England from Germany. He and his wife Theresa Cohen had at least nine children, all of them born in England between 1864 and 1883: Lewis, Joseph, Charles, Pauline, Aaron, Marks, Judah, Abraham and Emmanuel Cohen. We know neither exactly where Casper was from in Germany, nor whether Casper's surname was originally Cohen or was originally something else, instead.

Casper's son Henry Aaron Cohen, married Sophia Jacobs in 1898, the youngest daughter of Elias Jacobs. For more information about the descendants of Sophie and Henry Cohen, click here.

If you are a member of Casper and Teresa Cohen's family, or even just think they might be in your family tree, we would love to hear from you. Please do click here to contact us.


Ida Feldberg's parents were Simon and Katie Cohen. Simon Cohen was a tailor, and he and his wife Katie Cohen had immigrated from Poland to the United States by 1876. They had at least eight children in the United States, born between 1876 and 1897: Charles, Henry, Max, Goldie, Annie, Ida, David and Sammy Cohen. Their daughter Ida Cohen married Isadore Feldberg. For more information about the family of Ida and Izzy Feldberg, click here.

If you are a member of Simon and Katie Cohen's family, or even just think they might be in your family tree, it would be great to hear from you. Please do click here to get in touch with us.


In the case of Ida Cohen, who married Albert Lichtig, she was the daughter of Morris Cohen and Sarah Roswell Cohen. Their surname was originally Kagan before Ida's parents immigrated from the area of Minsk to the United States shortly after 1900. Most male descendants of Morris and Sarah kept Cohen as their surname, while some changed their surname to Crane. And, one of their descendants married into our Blumstein family.

If you are a member of Morris and Sarah Cohen's family, or even just think they might be in your family tree, we would love to hear from you. Please do click here to get in touch with your northern California relatives.


David Moses (aka Morris) Kaplansky was a son of the Prussian or German tailor, Mordechai Kaplansky. David migrated to Wales, where he married Jane Jacobs in 1886. Their surname is spelled Cuplansky in the civil marriage records, and Koplansky in the synagogue records.

It was at some time after their marriage in 1886, and before the birth of their son in 1890 in Connecticut, that the family name was changed from Kaplansky to Cohen. For more information about the family of David Morris Cohen and Jane Cohen, click here.

If you are a Kaplansky descendant, and think David Kaplansky is or might be in your family tree, please do contact us by clicking here.


  1. Interviews with family members.
  2. British Census Records for 1871, 1881, 1891, and 1901, available online for free at Public Libraries and via subscription to Ancestry.com and FindMyPast.com.
  3. British birth, marriage, and death index, available online for free at http://www.freebmd.org.uk.
  4. United States Federal Census Records for 1900, 1910, and 1920, available online for free at Public Libraries and via subscription to Ancestry.com, and on the web for free from Public Libraries through the Heritage Quest Census database.
  5. Marriage certificates for Jane Cohen to David Morris Cuplansky, and for Sophia Jacobs to Henry Aaron Cohen

This is http://freepages.family.rootsweb.com/~thecohens/cohens.html


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Original URL: http://freepages.family.rootsweb.com/~thecohens/cohens.html
Content dated February 21, 2010

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