I know that the Jewish people can be categorized as Kohen, Levi or Yisrael. Given that I am a Yisrael, I have always wondered which of the 12 tribes I come from. Is there a way to find out?
The Aish Rabbi Replies:
After King Solomon's reign in the 10th century BCE, the Jewish nation split into two groups, with Judah and Benjamin forming Judah, the southern kingdom, with the remaining 10 tribes forming Israel, the northern kingdom. The tribe of Levi was geographically dispersed within the two kingdoms.
Two centuries later, the Assyrians invaded Israel and exiled the tribes. As far as history was concerned, the Ten Tribes disappeared. They evidently settled somewhere in the east, probably in the areas of Kurdistan, Afghanistan, Syria and Iran. Presumably, they then assimilated completely.
Today, all Jews come from the tribes of Judah and Benjamin (which we called "Israelites"), or from the tribe of Levi (which are the Kohanim and Levites).
Using the CMH as a DNA signature of the ancient Hebrews, researchers are pursuing a hunt for Jewish genes around the world. These genetic archaeologists are using DNA research to discover historical links to the Jewish people. Many individuals have approached the researchers to be tested. Having the CMH is not proof of one's being Jewish, or from any one tribal line.
There are many groups around the world who – although not Jewish by law – claim some historic connection to the Jewish people. In the Pathan tribe in Afghanistan and Pakistan, for example, Pathan women light candles on Friday evenings to bless the Sabbath. Also, Pathans use the Shield of David and wear a four-cornered prayer garment, wear sidelocks, have circumcision on the eighth day, and many have Jewish-sounding names.
As for searching for them, some believe that Ethiopian Jews are from the Tribe of Dan, and that certain Judaic tribes in India may be descended from Menashe.
Jewish customs have been found in the Shinlung tribe (India and Burma), the Kashmiri nation in Northern India, the Chiang-Min on the border of China and Tibet, the Lemba tribe in southern Africa, and the Bnei Moshe in Peru.