Winona Ryder

Ryder in 2011, DFree /

Birth Name: Winona Horowitz

Place of Birth: Olmsted, Minnesota, United States

Date of Birth: October 29, 1971

*Ashkenazi Jewish (father)
*Belgian, German, English, Irish (mother)

Winona Ryder is an American actress. A Golden Globe winner, she is known for starring in the films Beetlejuice and Little Women, among many others.

She was given her first name after a city near her hometown, in Minnesota. Her parents are Cynthia V. (née Istas), an author, video producer, and editor, and Michael D. Horowitz, an author and archivist.

Her father is Jewish (his family emigrated from Romania, Russia, and Belarus). Many of her father’s relatives died in the Holocaust. Winona’s mother’s maiden name, Istas, is found in Belgium. Winona’s mother is of English, Belgian, German, and Irish ancestry.

Winona’s father is an atheist and Winona’s mother is a Buddhist. Winona has identified herself as Jewish, at least in an ethnic sense.

Winona’s paternal grandfather was Sol Horowitz (the son of Louis Jorge Tomchin and Mary Yetta Friedland). Sol was born in Minsk, Belarus, to Jewish parents. His family’s surname was changed from Tomchin to Horowitz.

Winona’s paternal grandmother was Ethel Frankel (the daughter of Joseph Frankel and Bertha Yuffe). Ethel was born in Brooklyn, New York, to Romanian Jewish parents, from Botoșani. Joseph was the son of Aaron Frankel and Gitza Rivka Godel. Bertha was the daughter of Avram Yuffe and Perla Weidenfeld.

Winona’s maternal grandfather was Everett Frank Istas (the son of William Paul Istas and Edna Frances Bennett). William was born in Wisconsin, the son of a Belgian father, Frank Istas, and of a mother, Ida Zachou/Zachow, who was born in Wisconsin, to German parents. Edna was born in Collingwood, Simcoe, Ontario, Canada, the daughter of English parents, Eli Brian Bennett and Frances Maria/Myva Halfred/Halford.

Winona’s maternal grandmother was named Margaret. Margaret was born in Illinois.

Sources: Interview with Winona Ryder about her Jewish background –

Genealogy of Winona Ryder (focusing on her father’s side) –

Winona’s maternal grandfather, Everett Frank Istas, on the 1910 U.S. Census –

Death record of Winona’s maternal grandfather, Everett Frank Istas –

Death record of Winona’s maternal great-great-grandmother, Ida (Zachou/Zachow) Istas –


Curious about ethnicity

34 Responses

  1. ses101 says:

    I can see why she would change her surname. It wasn’t the most aesthetically pleasing.

  2. bablah says:

    Her maternal grandparents were possibly Everett Frank Istas and Margaret.

    • bablah says:

      *Margaret Colter

      One of Wynona’s uncles has a middle name Everett and he is from Marrinette, Wisc. Margaret Colter was from Marrinette (but born in Illinois). The other uncle is called Douglas (Everett’s brother was called Douglas). After Everett died, I believe she remarried to a man called Robert Yaeger. Robert Yeager is also a name of one of Wynona’s uncles.

  3. Capricious says:

    She’s a cute thief.

  4. everyoneisthesame says:

    Tomchin is Russian surname not Jewish.

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