Winona Ryder

by ethnic on January 3, 2008

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). Everett 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 –

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 –

DFree /

{ 33 comments… read them below or add one }

ses101 September 7, 2018 at 4:01 pm

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

neiltennant September 8, 2018 at 8:11 am

it was because of possible discrimination

many Jewish celebs in the US changed their names

bablah September 7, 2018 at 10:23 am

Her maternal grandparents were possibly Everett Frank Istas and Margaret.

bablah September 7, 2018 at 11:03 am

*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.

Capricious October 10, 2015 at 6:53 pm

She’s a cute thief.

everyoneisthesame December 15, 2014 at 6:31 am

Tomchin is Russian surname not Jewish.

follers December 15, 2014 at 1:13 pm

Pretty much everyone with the last name “Tomchin” in the U.S. is Jewish.

Freerk November 28, 2014 at 8:03 pm

Belgian could very well be – she looks like a sister of the stepdaughters of my brother who lives in Belgium with a (German-)Belgian woman. In fact exactly like the oldest. Somehow strange …

WTF November 28, 2014 at 3:16 pm

I’ve always thought she was gorgeous. Lisa Bonet reminds me of a mixed version of her.

rafe September 18, 2016 at 4:00 am
andrew January 29, 2013 at 4:54 pm

nice pic

christian March 22, 2012 at 2:48 pm

she looks like a typical jewish woman

i can understand why she changed her name

because people might give her only jewish-themed roles

look at barbra streisand, adam sandler

follers August 29, 2013 at 4:00 pm

Interesting comment, but not quite accurate. First of all, the surnames “Streisand” and “Sandler”, while both are always or almost always Jewish, don’t sound particularly Jewish unless you have a really thorough knowledge of surnames.

Second, those two actors mostly play a lot of Jewish characters because they choose to do so. Since they both became major stars relatively quickly in their careers, they both have or had a lot of creative control over all their projects, and they can put whatever they want in their movies, or make their characters out to be of whatever background they choose.

neiltennant September 19, 2016 at 10:54 am

funny i talked to my sister last night and she called me also SANDLER and STREISAND as famous jewish celebs who did not change their names

on the other hand we have all those GENE WILDERS, MICHAEL LANDONS etc. who all changed their names

Cristina October 23, 2010 at 12:21 pm

Winona looks like the typical Romanian. Dark hair, dark eyes, exotic features.

Holly88 March 18, 2011 at 3:38 pm

Naturally her hair is suppose to be blonde, she dyed it black for her role in ‘Lucas’ and was told to keep it that way. : )

kate October 14, 2010 at 5:56 am

Cindy Horowitz is also known by the name Cynthia Palmer. Her maiden name is Istas; the father of her first two children was named Palmer/

kate October 14, 2010 at 5:58 am

All I could find is – Istas, a native american name meaning snow.
her parents –

ethnic October 15, 2010 at 8:14 pm

hmm she could have Native American heritage on her mother’s side.

zuzanna August 16, 2010 at 2:36 am

i just LOVE LOVE LOVE Winona ;p

aps July 19, 2010 at 3:41 am

Winona also Romanian Jew, and her father original last name is Tomchin (this is a Russian name).

ethnic July 19, 2010 at 7:55 am

great find aps! thanks

Junior July 14, 2010 at 1:49 pm

Caucasican American?, that stuff doesn´t exist, white people are not originary from America.

levangelista36 August 14, 2012 at 1:25 am


Yessss. You tell ’em, dude.

rafe September 6, 2018 at 7:58 pm

Do African-Americans not exist either?

kira:) May 9, 2010 at 1:19 pm

One of the sweetest looking people ever! Amazing in Star Trek!

zuzanna May 9, 2010 at 11:38 am

her eyes are goregous !!!!
i love winona

adrienne April 3, 2010 at 3:40 am

alot of people say i look like winona ryder and it amazing how much i do. but i am german. alot of people think i am russian just like her maybe there is some in my back ground who knows.. but i just think it cool!! :)

zuzanna August 16, 2010 at 2:28 am

adrienne, i’ve got the same… but i am just Polish and i don’t know nothing about that ;p maybe i’m a lil bit Jewish?

ethnic what do u think about that?

ethnic August 16, 2010 at 4:24 am

Zuzanna, I would definitely research your background. you might find something you never knew before.

zuzanna March 28, 2010 at 12:14 am

She is so beautiful. One of the best actress

ethnic January 18, 2010 at 4:17 pm

dont think so.

JT January 18, 2010 at 2:58 pm


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