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Jewish Genealogical Society of Illinois

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In operation 1906-1948

The Marks Nathan Jewish Orphan Home opened at 1243 North Woods Street (pre-1909 address: 592-598 Wood Street or 1741 Blucher Street) on May 13, 1906 with 29 children, according to a 2006 report, "Orthodoxy as a Means of Becoming Good Jewish Americans: Two Jewish Orphanages in Chicago".  It was started by businessman Marks Nathan, who left $15,000 in his will to create either an Orthodox hospital or orphanage. The organization soon realized that they would need a larger building to meet the needs of the community, and in 1912 moved to a 300-bed facility at 1550 South Albany in the Lawndale community. This facility (image above) opened on November 17, 1912 with 186 children. For more than 40 years, it served as "a refuge for Jewish children whom life had handed a lousy deal," according to a Tribune report on a 1992 reunion of former residents. The home had a number of residents who would later become famous including lawyer and civil rights activist Elmer Gertz, professional boxer Barney Ross, and American sportswriter Jerome Holtzman. The home closed in 1948. Additional information about the original North Woods Street property can be found in this article.

This collection includes records extracted from documents obtained from public and private collections. It contains an index of the individuals mentioned in these documents as well as the entire document (where possible). The task of collecting these documents is an on-going process. By making these document available online, we hope to provide insights into life in the home to researchers who had family members who were residents, even if their relative was not specifically mentioned in the document.

An oral history project, formally known as Home Kids, Memories of the Marks Nathan Jewish Orphan Home, is a ninety-three page document containing interviews with about twenty of the home's alumni of their memories while they stayed there. The entire document is available by clicking on the image of the cover page, below. The individuals who contributed to the document are included in our searchable index which contains the page numbers within the document where they are mentioned. There were a few individuals who contributed under pseudonyms to maintain their privacy. These names have an asterisk (*) after their assigned names. The document contains some inconsistencies in the process of recording when individuals were residing in the home and other items from the interviews. We attempted to include our "best guess" of the correct information. To learn more about the project, please read the beginning of the document.

Home Kids Memories of the Marks Nathan Jewish Orphan Home

NOTE: 93-page PDF (11MB) will open in a new browser window or tab

The census data contains transcripts from the 1910, 1920, 1930 and 1940 United States Federal Census. It includes an estimate of the year the individual was born, where they were born, and indicates which census year the record was found. There are over 900 records in this collection. Since children were not admitted until age five and generally left the home before age 18, very few of them appear in more than one census year. In addition, many children were only in the home for a short period and may not appear in any of the censuses which were only taken every ten years. Please note that the census records include the name of the individual at the time the census was taken, which may be the mother's maiden name and the individuals's original given names in cases where names were later changed. Additionally, sometimes individuals may have been called by nicknames or other forms of their name. For example, Julia might be called Julie so multiple searches may be appropriate. We also offer a link to FamilySearch.org if you would like to view the original census document.

JGSI is in the process of collecting newsletters and other documents that will be added to the collection. If you have any materials you wish to share, please contact us at jjcd@jgsi.org.


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