Jack Nicholson

by ethnic on October 10, 2008

Birth Name: John Joseph Nicholson

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

Date of Birth: April 22, 1937

*Irish, with smaller amounts of Scottish, English, Pennsylvania Dutch/German, Welsh (mother)
*unknown (biological father): either Italian, or Latvian, or Ashkenazi Jewish, or Baltic German

Jack Nicholson is an American actor, writer, director, and producer. He has won the Academy Award for Best Actor, twice, for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) and As Good as It Gets (1997), and the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for Terms of Endearment (1983).

He was raised in the Catholic faith.

His mother, June Frances (Nicholson), was of Irish, and smaller amounts of Scottish, English, Pennsylvania Dutch (German), and Welsh, descent.

Jack Nicholson was raised believing that his maternal grandparents were his parents. The identity of Jack’s father is not confirmed, and Jack has chosen not to take a DNA test to find out his paternal background. There are two possible fathers. One, Donald Furcillo, was of Italian descent. The other, Edgar Alfred Kirschfeld/Kirschfeldt (or Kirsfeld), a bandleader, was a Latvian immigrant, from the city Liepāja; Edgar was possibly born Jewish, although he practiced the Episcopalian religion in the United States. Edgar’s mother’s name was Otilia.

Jack has at least four children, a daughter with his former wife, actress, painter, and writer Sandra Knight; a daughter with his former partner, Danish model Winnie Hollman; and two children with his former partner, actress Rebecca Broussard.

Jack’s maternal grandfather was John Joseph Nicholson (the son of Joseph J. Nicholson and Ella/Ellen Lynch). Jack’s grandfather John was born in New York, to Irish parents. Joseph was the son of Joseph J. Nicholson and Bridget Derrig, who was likely from County Mayo. Jack’s great-grandmother Ella was born in Cork, the daughter of Timothy Lynch and Mary Mahoney.

Jack’s maternal grandmother was Ethel May Rhoads (the daughter of William Jakel Rhoads/Rhoades and Mary Alice Wilkinson). Ethel was born in Pennsylvania. William was the son of Alfred Cook Rhoads/Rhoades, whose father was English, and of Margaret Blanche Jakels. Mary Alice was the daughter of Joseph John Wilkinson, whose parents were English, and of Ellen Harper, who was born in Pennsylvania, to a Scottish father.

Sources: Genealogy of Jack Nicholson – https://www.geni.com

Jack Nicholson on the 1940 U.S. Census – https://www.familysearch.org

Genealogy of Jack Nicholson (focusing on his mother’s side) – https://www.wikitree.com

Genealogy of Jack’s mother – http://worldconnect.rootsweb.ancestry.com

Jack’s mother on the 1920 U.S. Census – https://www.familysearch.org
Jack’s mother on the 1930 U.S. Census – https://www.familysearch.org

Genealogy of Jack’s mother (focusing on her father’s side) – http://worldconnect.rootsweb.ancestry.com

Jack’s maternal grandfather, John Joseph Nicholson, on the 1910 U.S. Census – https://familysearch.org

Marriage record of Jack’s maternal grandparents, Joseph J. Nicholson and Ella/Ellen Lynch – https://familysearch.org

Jack’s maternal great-grandmother, Mary Alice Wilkinson, on the 1880 U.S. Census – https://familysearch.org

Adherents.com material on Jack’s religious and family background – http://www.adherents.com

Featureflash / Shutterstock.com

{ 53 comments… read them below or add one }

ses101 April 13, 2018 at 6:36 am

Nicholson is a Scottish name, if that is his real name he certainly has Scottish roots.

andrew October 12, 2017 at 5:19 am
madman July 25, 2017 at 1:01 pm


*Joseph J. Nicholson’s father was English, not Scottish.
*Joseph John Wilkinson was English.

Amazonian June 30, 2016 at 6:36 pm

UPDATE….I searched Kirschfeld in linkedIn (to confirm Edgar Kirschfeld is ethnic-German)..
I found four people in Germany, fifth person in Poland with first name Christian.
So almost sure all Five are gentiles.
I found graves with Christian symbols of people who lived before 1950. We can ignore it, but currently living people makes it clear Kirshfeld is mostly ethnic-German.

follers July 1, 2016 at 12:11 am

There are some Jews named “Kirschfeld” listed here.

Amazonian July 1, 2016 at 6:15 am

ok..my point is number of Gentiles with the surname Kirschfeld is much more than Jews. During Edgar’s birth time, Baltic Germans were at least 5% of Latvia (check Latvia Census 1897 to 1935).
BALTIC GERMAN should be listed in the possible father of Jack Nicholson.
Why Latvian Jew ? when there is no evidence..Is it because people want to label anyone as at least part Jewish if surname ends with berg (while 15+% of Swedes and 2-3% of ethnic Germans have it) or Stein (many historical ethnic-Germans have it), or anyone from Soviet/UK with German sounding name (while ethnic Germans also migrated there)..

madman July 1, 2016 at 6:31 am

Agreed, with the surname Kirschfeld, he was likely not an ethnic Latvian. If he practiced christianity, it makes it likely he had German ancestry. Latvian should be switched for Baltic German.

follers July 1, 2016 at 7:13 am

Whether most Kirschfelds in the world were Jewish or not doesn’t tell us much about whether an immigrant to the U.S. with that surname in the 1920s or 1930s was Jewish or not. The facts that he moved to the northeast, changed his name to Eddie King, and went into showbusiness are much more relevant clues.

Eddie practiced Episcopalianism as an adult, which indicates almost without question that he changed his religion at some point.

As for “Baltic German”, that seems like more extreme speculation. Since we know so little about this man who may or may not have been Nicholson’s biological father, I want to stick with what biographers have speculated, Latvian or Latvian Jewish.

madman July 2, 2016 at 12:04 am

It is not much of an extreme speculation, given that ethnic Latvians usually don’t have names like Kirschfeld. If Edgar was from Latvia, and had the surname Kirschfeld, he was more likely of German or Jewish ancestry than Latvian.

Amazonian July 2, 2016 at 4:37 pm

Eddie King mostly a stage name of Edgar Alfred Kirschfeld since he started a dance studio, and one of his young dancers was June Nicholson.
Also, it is more likely to change Christian denomination than converting from Judaism.

Latvians use only Edgars, not Edgar. It also makes a difference
(please use Chrome translator)

About 5% of Latvia being Baltic Germans during his birth time gives a strong vibe.

follers July 2, 2016 at 10:38 pm

A Baltic German who moved to New York in the 1920s, became a bandleader, and changed his religion to Episcopalian?

Speaking of Episcopalians, it was probably more likely at the time that a Jewish immigrant would become an Episcopalian than a Baltic German one. You kind of have to know the context and the position of Episcopalians in U.S. society to understand that.

By the way, Eddie King was from Liepāja, which had a large Jewish population at the time.

Amazonian July 2, 2016 at 10:58 pm

Baltic Germans were about 20% of Liepāja in 1900s.
10% even in 1920s. Whether Eddie was born or just grew up there, ethnic-German population is quite significant.

madman July 3, 2016 at 4:35 am

The question isn’t whether he was Baltic German or Jewish. The point is that a Latvian-born person with the surname Kirschfeld more likely has German or Jewish ancestry than Latvian. Hence, I think it should say “either Italian or German (possibly Latvian Jewish)”.

follers July 3, 2016 at 8:28 am

I know that’s not the question, although Amazonian keep trying to point it that way.

By the way, Madman, didn’t you think Charles Bronson could have been of Lithuanian descent, despite neither of his parents having Lithuanian surnames? So why couldn’t Edgar Kirschfeld have been of Latvian descent despite the surname?

“either Italian or German” – Come on, right off the boat?

At best, it would be “either Italian, or Latvian, Latvian Jewish, or Baltic German”, although I have many reservations.

Most notable natives of Liepāja were either ethnic Latvians or Jewish. I did see one Baltic German.

andrew July 3, 2016 at 8:43 am
Amazonian July 4, 2016 at 3:38 am

@Follers…my point is why Baltic German not added as possible one along with Jewish and Latvian..

Of 16 notable people born before 1950, 6 are Baltic Germans and 2 are Jews.
(please use chrome translator)

madman July 4, 2016 at 4:06 am

When the publicly available genealogies, census records, and the persons own words all points towards a specific ancestry, I am willing to disregard the fact that the surnames doesn’t match with it. And the fact remains that a lot of Lithuanian surnames were changed to sound more Polish, so Charles could still have been of Lithuanian descent, despite having a Polish surname.

I could also throw the question back to you; why is a Latvian-born person with a German/Jewish surname having Baltic German ancestry an extreme speculation, while a Lithuanian born person having Polish ancestry isn’t?

This is completely different. All we have to go by is a birth place and a surname. We know of the Baltic German presence in Latvia, and that they were a significant minority who spoke German and had German surnames. We also know that “Kirschfeld” is more often German or Jewish than Latvian.

In the end, however, this is really not really important, since we don’t even know for certain that Edgar was Jack’s biological father.

follers July 4, 2016 at 3:38 pm

Bronson’s census records don’t necessarily point to him being an ethnic Lithuanian, since, as we discussed, “Lithuania” being listed as the country of birth on a census doesn’t necessarily mean that someone was an ethnic Lithuanian, and his family was from a town that was on the border, anyway. And there aren’t any genealogies of Bronson of any depth.

Kurgan July 22, 2016 at 8:01 am

Well, he could’ve had his surname Americanized, or the media just gave an Americanized version of the surname.

In Latvia, his surname would be Kirsfelds. I am from Latvia, and I know some people with that surname. It’s not the most popular, but its pretty common. I don’t know whether those people had any German or Jewish ancestry. If you check Kirsfelds (which is the Latvian-ized version of Kirschfeld) then you get matches mostly from Latvia. If Eddie’s surname is Kirsfelds (or before he came to US), then there’s more than a fair chance that he was a Latvian, or at the very least had a partial ethnic Latvian ancestry. In Latvia he would be Edijs Kirsfelds.

Another examples of how original German sounding surnames in Latvia:

Schultz – Šulcs
Damberg – Dambergs (I know a 15 children family with this surname, and they are NOT jewish)
Berg – Bergs

And countless more

My own surname is usually mistaken as a german one (Stalbergs), so when I was in England, some people assumed I’m Jewish, and some assumed that I’m German, but I’m neither.

You see, up till the 19th century, only noblemen, craftsmen and town people in Latvia had surnames. Too lazy to go into detail how people could have chosen their surnames, but if you want I can try, because there’s not a lot of sources available on Latvian surnames outside of Latvian language internet sources.

Well, not saying that I would be especially proud of this Eddie if he was Latvian (read about him, not the best father figure). So, I hope I cleared it up a little bit. Either way, 90% of celebrities are English, Dutch, Polish, French, Czech, German etc. so why not one Latvian? lol

Kurgan July 22, 2016 at 8:08 am

Some English language source on surnames for anyone who still wants to speculate on this.

Kurgan July 22, 2016 at 8:08 am
Kurgan July 22, 2016 at 8:24 am


Sorry, cant find the edit button.

Amazonian June 30, 2016 at 6:35 pm

I searched Kirschfeld in linkedIn (to confirm Edgar Kirschfeld is ethnic-German)..
I found four people in Germany, fifth person in Poland with first name Christian.
So almost sure all Five are gentiles.
I found graves with Christian symbols of people who lived before 1950. We can ignore it, but currently living people makes it clear Kirshfeld is mostly ethnic-German.

Amazonian June 30, 2016 at 6:22 pm

Edgar Kirschfeld was a Baltic German…When he lived in Latvia…Baltic Germans were 3-5% of Latvia.
Only ethnic Germans have the exact surname Kirschfeld among presently living people (seen mostly in Germany).
More common form Hirschfeld occurs in both ethnic-Germans and Jews, and it lead to perception that Hirschfeld is Jewish surname and less common Krischfeld is also taken quasi-jewish when literally no Jewish person found that name but only ethnic-Germans (specifically of 21st century living people).

cwm85 August 5, 2015 at 2:32 pm

Always thought Jack had some Italian or some type of Med roots. The hair and eyes, the complexion of his skin. If Fact I’m surprised no dutch ancestry.

andrew October 17, 2013 at 3:11 pm
follers October 17, 2013 at 3:15 pm

I will add the ancestry and link to Jack’s page.

andrew August 1, 2013 at 7:25 pm

follers, who is Jack’s father?

follers August 1, 2013 at 11:24 pm

Richard Milhous Nixon was the biological father of Jack Nicholson.

andrew August 19, 2013 at 6:39 am

ahaha..this man (Don Furcillo) claims to Jack’s dad, what do u think?


follers August 19, 2013 at 2:06 pm

It’s Nixon. When did Jack become a famous movie star? 1969. Who became President that year? Exactly.

andrew August 19, 2013 at 3:49 pm

Nixon is from California, Nicholson from New Jersey (not from NYC), that’s hard

follers August 19, 2013 at 4:13 pm

Richard Nixon was at Duke University in North Carolina in 1936, probably in late July of that year as well. I assume that June Frances Nicholson was performing there the night Jack was conceived.

Richard didn’t marry Pat Nixon until 1940, so he wouldn’t even have been cheating on his wife.

andrew August 20, 2013 at 6:54 am

Nicholson is a hard Democrat, he can’t have links with Nixon

follers August 20, 2013 at 1:01 pm

Jack’s only a “hard Democrat” because he doesn’t like his dad.

andrew August 19, 2013 at 6:40 am

*claims to be

Michele March 30, 2012 at 1:46 pm

So his name really ist Nicholson.Does ayone know of any greeks amed Nicholson.My great grandfather was named Nicholson,and born in Greece or France,and he had Greek ancestry.

Al October 13, 2011 at 7:58 pm

He looks a lot like some Italian-Irish people I know actually. Donald Furcillo-Rose also IMO shares some distinctive traits with Jack Nicholson, and sort of has the same eyebrows and a similar mouth. My guess would be part-Italian personally. That said, I do think Nicholson looks pretty Irish and shows that more than anything else.

Dave December 8, 2013 at 2:50 am

I’m Italian, and I can say with about 90% accuracy that he is half Italian. When you’re a certain ethnicity you can just look at someone and know that they possess some of your heritage.

Kurgan February 24, 2016 at 4:10 am

Well, I am Latvian, and I can definitely say that he resembles some people I know and kinda looks a little bit Latvian, but at the same time I admit that he also looks Italian, and that he resembles some Italian actors.

Also, Kirscfeld is a quasi-Jewish surname, and that doesn’t necessarily mean he was jewish. At least that’s what people have said.

But the fact is, unless he takes a test, we will never know for sure.

andrea June 17, 2011 at 6:45 am

italian/irish typical example

LiL VACHA August 15, 2010 at 1:16 pm


Una August 25, 2010 at 4:09 am

If he was from Latvia, think that he probably had some Latvian blood too.

LiL VACHA August 25, 2010 at 1:12 pm

i d0N’t tHiNk S0. jUSt bECAUSE HE WASz FR0M LAtViA dHAt d0ESN’t MEAN hE iS AN EtHNiC LAtViAN.

LL August 29, 2010 at 3:28 am

You should read abot the history of Latvia and Latvians.

John Baltic March 2, 2011 at 1:55 pm

What an ignorant post.

jean January 17, 2012 at 5:46 pm

dude I’m Jewish, ethnically and religiously.

nnnnn May 10, 2012 at 2:01 pm

Sorry, if you are “Baltic” you should be from former USSR?
Even I know, that religion in USSR was forbidden and Jewish was an ethnic

Lucas August 15, 2010 at 6:31 am
ses101 April 13, 2018 at 6:38 am

A lot of Americans think they are Irish when their descendants are actually Ulster Scots, ie Scottish people who went to Northern Ireland then moved onto America a few decades later.

fuzzybear44 April 13, 2018 at 1:56 pm


I think DNA test take that and factor it in, because they lists you as (Irish/Scottish/Welsh) on the test

Bruno August 15, 2010 at 1:02 am

He have this Latvian look!

Una July 14, 2010 at 12:21 pm

I hope he is Latvian! :)

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