8 Things You Didn’t Know about Jon Stewart’s Roots

Ancestors from Ukraine to China Arrived 1893 to 1940

Megan Smolenyak
3 min readApr 21, 2021


Jon Stewart and his great-granduncle

Until a few years ago, Jon Stewart came into our living rooms four nights a week to both educate and entertain us. Now he uses his celebrity sparingly to support select causes such as keeping our commitments to and 9/11 first responders, but otherwise keeps a low profile. He didn’t, for instance, join Twitter until January of 2021. So he remains something of an enigma to most.

As a genealogist, I was curious about the ancestors who produced a descendant of such intellect and principle, so here’s a bit of information about his heritage — including an unexpected Mongolian and Chinese connection.

  • Among the names scattered in Stewart’s family tree are Engel, Gewirtz, Hanin, Karlinksy, Kleinberg, Laskin, Leibowitz, Markontch, Rosenfeld and Pitkowski, so if any of these adorn your tree as well, you could be cousins.
  • Whether we know it or not, our roots definitely claim us. Just as Bruno Mars resembles his grandfather, I would say that Jon Stewart bears more than a passing resemblance to this “chicken-breasted” great-granduncle of his (see photo at top). I had never encountered the term “chicken-breasted” before (“having a chest deformity marked by a projecting breastbone caused by infantile rickets”), but it’s how this fellow, who had already served in the Russian infantry, described himself on his WWI draft registration card.
  • His forebears have held one of the more eclectic mélange of jobs I’ve seen, including taxi driver, fruit and vegetable peddler, furrier, shoe store proprietor, and window cleaner.
  • In the U.S., his family has been heavily concentrated in New York and his home state of New Jersey (family members have been there for about 120 years, especially in Newark where they lived close to the historic Prince Street Synagogue), but there’s also a dash of California.
  • All of his immigrant ancestors arrived within a half-century period, and on a comparative basis, are relative newcomers to the U.S. The first came to America just a year after Ellis Island opened in 1892 and this great-grandmother brought up the rear in 1940.



Megan Smolenyak

Genealogical adventurer & storyteller who loves solving mysteries! You may not know me, but chances are you’ve seen my work. (www.MeganSmolenyak.com)