Jack Nicholson

Nicholson in 2010, Featureflash / Shutterstock.com

Birth Name: John Joseph Nicholson

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

Date of Birth: April 22, 1937

*mother – Irish, with smaller amounts of Scottish, English, Pennsylvania Dutch/German, Welsh
*biological father – unknown: 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), a showgirl, 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, showman Donald Furcillo, was of Italian descent, the son of Samuel R. Furcillo/Furcella and Antoinette, of Monteforte Irpino, Campania. The other, Edgar Alfred Kirschfeld/Kirschfeldt (or Kirsfeld), a bandleader and June’s manager, was a Latvian emigrant, 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, including actor Ray Nicholson, 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 Sligo. 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 and Margaret Blanche “Maggie” 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

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 great-grandparents, Joseph J. Nicholson and Ella/Ellen Lynch – https://familysearch.org

Jack’s maternal great-grandfather, William Jakel Rhoads/Rhoades, on the 1880 U.S. Census – https://www.familysearch.org

Marriage record of Jack’s maternal great-great-grandparents, Alfred Cook Rhoads/Rhoades and Margaret Blanche “Maggie” Jakels – https://www.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


Curious about ethnicity

54 Responses

  1. madman says:


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

  2. Amazonian says:

    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 says:

      There are some Jews named “Kirschfeld” listed here.

      • Amazonian says:

        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 says:

          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 says:

          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 says:

            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 says:

            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 says:

            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 says:

            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 says:

            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 says:

            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.

          • Amazonian says:

            @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 says:

            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 says:

            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 says:

      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

  3. Amazonian says:

    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.

  4. Amazonian says:

    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).

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