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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.

In addition, when Jews were mandated by the authorities to adopt surnames (mostly in the 1700s and 1800s), some chose "Epstein". Later, when Jews changed surnames to avoid the Tzarist draft, some picked "Epstein". Also, some boys may have been adopted into Epstein families