Robert Downey, Jr.

67th Annual Golden Globe Awards - Press Room

Downey in 2010, photo via PR Photos

Birth Name: Robert John Downey, Jr.

Place of Birth: Manhattan, New York City, New York, U.S.

Date of Birth: April 4, 1965

Ethnicity: Ashkenazi Jewish (three eighths), as well as English, Scottish, German, Swiss-German, and Irish

Robert Downey, Jr. is an American actor, musician, and producer, also credited simply as Robert Downey. He starred in many Hollywood films throughout the 1980s and 1990s, and the 21st century, including Good Night, and Good Luck., Zodiac, Tropic Thunder, Back to School, and as Iron Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Robert is the son of actress Elsie Ann (Ford) and director, writer, and actor Robert Downey, Sr. His sister is actress Allyson Downey.

Robert’s father was of one half Lithuanian Jewish, one quarter Irish, and one quarter Hungarian Jewish, ancestry. Robert’s mother had Scottish, English, German, and Swiss-German ancestry. Robert’s father was born with the surname Elias, and later changed his surname to Downey, after his own stepfather. Robert is married to producer Susan Levin Downey; the two married in a Jewish ceremony (Susan is Jewish). Robert has a son with his former wife, singer and actress Deborah Falconer; and two children with Susan.

Robert’s paternal grandfather was Robert R. Elias (the son of Yosef/Joseph/Iosel W. Elias/Eliashovich and Golda/Gussie/Augusta Goldberg). Robert’s grandfather Robert Elias was born in New York. Yosef and Golda were Jewish emigrants, from Lithuania, Yosef from Jonava and Golda from Prienai/Pren. Yosef was the son of Meyer Eliasovitz/Elias/Eliashovich and Bealia/Beylia Cohen. Golda was the daughter of Moses Chies “Morris” Goldberg and Khala/Khaia/Chala Gitel “Ida” Algaze/Algazy.

Robert’s paternal grandmother was Elizabeth Jesse “Betty” McLoughlin/McLauchlen (the daughter of James Robert McLauchlen and Ellenore/Eleanor “Ella” Ormay). Elizabeth, who was a model, was born in New York. Robert’s great-grandfather James was born in Massachusetts, to parents from Canada, John Robert McLauchlen, from New Brunswick, and Jessie Murray, from Nova Scotia, and had Irish ancestry. Robert’s great-grandmother Ellenore was Jewish, and was born in Hungary, the daughter of Rudolph Ormay and Ilke/Ilka Helen Stern. Rudolph’s parents were Herman Ormay and Elizabeth Heiman. Ilke’s parents were Rudolf Stern and Ilke Rosisatier.

Robert’s maternal grandfather was named John Webster “Eddie” Ford (the son of John Ford and Mary). Robert’s grandfather John had Scottish and English ancestry.

Robert’s maternal grandmother was Fay/Faye Marguerite Schoch (the daughter of Cyrus A. Schoch and Elsie May Peightal). Faye was born in Pennsylvania. Cyrus was the son of Henry Lewis Schoch, who was from Bavaria, Germany, and of Catherine/Katherine Schucker, who was also of German origin. Elsie was the daughter of James Peightal and Sarah Ann, who were of German and Swiss-German descent.

Downey in 1990, Creative Commons License photo credit: Alan Light

Sources: Genealogy of Robert Downey, Jr. –

Family history of Robert’s paternal grandfather, Robert R. Elias –

Robert’s paternal grandfather, Robert R. Elias, on the 1920 U.S. Census –

Robert’s paternal grandmother, Elizabeth Jesse “Betty” McLoughlin/McLauchlen, on the 1930 U.S. Census –

Death record of Robert’s paternal great-great-grandfather, Rudolph Ormay –

Death record of Robert’s paternal great-great-grandmother, Ilke/Ilka Helen (Stern) Ormay –

Robert’s maternal grandmother, Fay/Faye Marguerite Schoch, on the 1910 U.S. Census –

Genealogy of Robert’s maternal great-grandfather, Cyrus A. Schoch (focusing on his own father’s side) –

Interview with Robert, mentioning his background –


Curious about ethnicity

70 Responses

  1. bearboy says:

    A correction I wanted to make was that even though his Jewish ancestry came from his paternal grandfather that had both of his parents from Lithuania which I agree is obviously Ashkenazi, Robert Downey Jr. is of Sephardi or Middle Eastern Jewish roots generation further back. The DNA test said Middle Eastern which they clarified was the approximate quarter Jewish side so I believe that should be added in his ethnicity to the Ashkenazi Jewish part as well.

    • follers says:

      “Middle Eastern” is some odd subset of a certain DNA test (not the 23andme one, which just says Ashkenazi, Sephardi, etc.).

      Of course his ancestors at some point lived in what is now known as the “Middle East”. The same is true of all Ashkenazi Jews, so it’s a pretty meaningless addition that could be noted for everyone of Ashkenazi descent.

      It’s like adding “Germanic” or “Roman” to people of English descent because they all have ancestors from there, or even “Caucasian” since Europeans originated from the Caucus area.

      You could also add “Roman” to all Ashkenazi Jews since they’re all partly descended from Roman converts to Judaism.

      • bearboy says:

        Yes, I am aware that every Ashkenazi Jew has Middle Eastern roots far back enough. The thing is how far back does this DNA test go that Robert Downey Jr took? I have a friend who is Ashkenazi Jewish and got tested from and only came up as two percent Middle Eastern. A test that goes 1000 years ago back

  2. Check7t says:


  3. J.J. says:

    correction; his eyes are hazel (light brown) and his hair is dark brown (brunet) I think it should be listed

  1. February 7, 2014

    […] grandfather) *Irish, Hungarian (paternal grandmother) *Scottish, German, Swiss-German (mother) Robert Downey, Jr. i always thought he was italian. anyone else think that? always got a pacino […]

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