Winona Ryder

Ryder in 2011, DFree /

Birth Name: Winona Horowitz

Place of Birth: Olmsted, Minnesota, United States

Date of Birth: October 29, 1971

*father – Ashkenazi Jewish
*mother – Belgian/Walloon, English, German, Irish, Swedish

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/Walloon, German, Irish, and one eighth Swedish, 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. Louis was the son of Leib Tomchin.

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 Shawno, Wisconsin. William was born in Wisconsin, the son of a Belgian father, Frank Alphonsius Istas, who had at least partial Walloon ancestry, and of a mother, Ida Zachou/Zachow, who was born in Wisconsin, to German parents, with her own mother being from Bergrade, Parchim, Mecklenburg-Schwerin. Winona’s great-grandmother Edna was born in Collingwood, Simcoe, Ontario, Canada, the daughter of English parents, Eli Brian Bennett, from Ringwood, Hampshire, and Frances Maria/Myva Halfred/Halford, from Ross, Herefordshire.

Winona’s maternal grandmother was Margaret Newman (the daughter of Alger Bernard Newman and Josephine Ford). Margaret was born in Illinois. Alger was the son of Swedish parents, John August Newman and Anna Matilda Johnson. Josephine was the daughter of Frederick D. Ford, who was born in Yorkshire, England, and of Margaret Wiggins.

Sources: Interview with Winona Ryder about her Jewish background –

Genealogy of Winona Ryder –

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

32 Responses

  1. Freerk says:

    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 …

  2. WTF says:

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

  3. follers says:

    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.

  4. Cristina says:

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

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