Yellowstone has all the time been a series fascinated with, if not outright obsessive about, legacy. That of the Yellowstone Ranch, upon which the fictional Dutton family has lived because the late 1800s, is foremost within the mind of patriarch John Dutton III, played by Kevin Costner with the gruff bluster of a cowboy past his prime. He often seems more fascinated with the well-being of this land than that of his own children—or, perhaps, it’s simply that he has a neater time understanding what it must thrive. But when the ever-expanding Yellowstone Cinematic Universe has anything resonant to say about legacy, it’s that the land’s legacy is set by the individuals who look after it, and which means the Dutton lineage—the fathers and sons of this century-spanning epic—matters as much because the borders of their property.
And so we turn to 1883 and 1923, creator Taylor Sheridan’s Yellowstone prequel spin-offs, which chronicle the upper tiers of the family tree as they branch right down to John Dutton III and his 4(ish) children. 1883, which concluded its first season in February 2022, featured Tim McGraw and Faith Hill because the central Duttons, who claim the infamous patch of Montana wild often known as the Yellowstone Dutton Ranch after the tragic death of their daughter, Elsa. The story picks back up in 1923—set to drop its first episode December 18—with Harrison Ford and Helen Mirren as this chapter’s key Duttons. Ford’s Jacob Dutton, brother to McGraw’s James Dutton, is tasked with caring for his brother’s home and family, a challenge complicated by the expected Twentieth-century problems: disease, drought, the Great Depression, post-war fallout, and “the violence that has all the time haunted this family,” because the 1923 teaser trailer reveals. That last line specifically is intriguing, given the ways by which the Yellowstone universe concerns itself with the romanticism of tradition, the nobility of the past—though only certain portions of it—and the passing-down of intergenerational trauma. (A trauma that can, inevitably, impact the land.)
So, to know this “haunted” family best, it’s essential to parse its origins. Below, a more in-depth glance through the knots of the Dutton family tree. Spoilers ahead when you haven’t watched Yellowstone, 1883, or 1923.
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One in all the leads of 1883, James Dutton (Tim McGraw) was the unique patriarch of the Dutton family, and the primary to say the family’s home in Montana. Originally a farmer from Tennessee, he traveled west together with his wife and youngsters after fighting as a Confederate soldier within the Civil War. He intended to journey further beyond Montana, but settled there after the death of his daughter, Elsa.
A nurse for the Confederate Army, Margaret (Faith Hill) farmed beside her husband, James, in Tennessee before the family headed northwest for brand new territory. She and James had three children in total: Elsa, John, and Spencer.
Brother to James, Jacob Dutton (Harrison Ford) took over caring for the Yellowstone homestead within the early 1900s. He’s the leading man in 1923.
Played by Helen Mirren in 1923, Cara Dutton is the wife of Jacob and matriarch of the Dutton family following Margaret’s death.
Sister to James and Jacob, 1883’s Claire Dutton (Dawn Olivieri) was a recent widow who traveled seeking a latest home together with her brother’s family and her daughter, Mary Abel. But after Mary Abel was killed by a gang outside of Fort Value, Texas, Claire—who had lost her husband and all seven of her children—died by suicide at Mary Abel’s grave.
Daughter of Claire Dutton and niece to James, Jacob, Margaret, and Cara, 1883’s Mary Abel (Emma Malouff) died on the road west when a gang attacked the family’s camp in Texas.
The eldest child of James and Margaret Dutton, Elsa (Isabel May) served because the narrator of 1883 before her death in season 1’s final episode. Traveling west on the age of 17 together with her parents and younger brother, John, Elsa fell in love twice on the road—first with cowboy Ennis, who was killed by bandits, after which with Comanche warrior Sam, to whom she promised she’d return after her family found their homestead out west. But she was never capable of make it back to her love, as she was shot and killed before they may very well be reunited. In her honor, James and Margaret founded the Dutton family homestead at the location of her grave.
John Dutton I
The oldest son of James and Margaret Dutton, John Dutton I appears in 1883 as a toddler and in 1923 as an adult, played by James Badge Dale. He worked the Yellowstone land alongside his uncle, Jacob, and had his circle of relatives with wife Emma and son Jack. Although 1923 has yet to disclose this, it’s presumed John Dutton I can also be the daddy of John Dutton II, who in turn fathers John Dutton III.
Although we don’t meet him in 1883, we learn in 1923 that James and Margaret had a 3rd child, Spencer Dutton (Brandon Sklenar), who was born after the family settled in Montana. A veteran of World War I, he’s a major character in 1923.
We don’t know much about Emma Dutton (Marley Shelton) just yet, but she’s the wife of John Dutton I and mother to Jack Dutton in 1923. Presumably, she can also be the mother of John Dutton II.
The eldest son of John Dutton I and Emma Dutton, Jack Dutton (Darren Mann) works together with his father and great-uncle to are inclined to the Yellowstone land. He’s expected to fall in love with the sweetness Elizabeth, and—presumably—marry her.
Elizabeth Strafford (probably, eventually Elizabeth Dutton)
Arrange as a love interest in 1923, the beautiful Elizabeth Strafford (Michelle Randolph) will likely turn out to be the life partner and wife of Jack Dutton.
John Dutton II
Presumably the son of John Dutton I and Emma Dutton, John Dutton II just isn’t guaranteed to look in 1923, though he appears as an old man in flashback episodes of Yellowstone. He was once the Dutton family patriarch, and is the daddy of Costner’s John Dutton III.
John Dutton III
The present owner of the huge Yellowstone Dutton Ranch, Costner’s John Dutton III is an uncompromising traditionalist, a rugged cowboy, a survivor of multiple near-death experiences, and the governor of Montana. He yearns for nothing greater than the continuation of his family’s land in the precise state it was bequeathed to him.
In Yellowstone season 5, John Dutton III reveals to his daughter-in-law, Monica, that he had a brother named Peter, who died only 18 hours after being born.
Once the wife and true love of John Dutton III, Evelyn Dutton (Gretchen Mol) died when her 4 children—Lee, Beth, Kayce, and Jamie—were still young. A horseback riding incident resulted in her being crushed, an accident for which Beth still blames herself.
The eldest child of John Dutton III and Evelyn Dutton, Lee (Dave Annable) was all the time meant to hold on the Dutton ranch’s legacy, but he died in the primary season of Yellowstone after a battle over stolen cattle.
John Dutton III and Evelyn’s only daughter, Beth (Kelly Reilly) is the signature spitfire of the family, a pure force of nature with the cutting stares and ragged bangs to prove it. The one people for whom she’ll acquiesce—if only barely—are her father and her husband, the cowboy Rip Wheeler.
A cowboy through and thru, Rip Wheeler (Cole Hauser) first arrived on the Yellowstone Ranch as a traumatized teenager, where he met and slowly fell in love together with his boss’s daughter. To this present day, he’s John Dutton III’s most trusted man.
Without end untethered inside the Dutton family and at one point estranged from his father, Kayce (Luke Grimes) is the youngest of the Dutton brood but the primary to have his circle of relatives. He married Monica Long of the Broken Rock Reservation, and together they’d Tate Dutton, whom John Dutton III eventually grows close with as Kayce’s wariness subsides.
Eager to please and simply manipulated, Jamie (Wes Bentley) is an attorney and the adopted son of John Dutton III and Evelyn Dutton, whom John later disinherits when things get a bit—ahem—dicey between them. Jamie’s biological father was Garrett Randall, who killed Jamie’s mother when Jamie was only a baby. Jamie himself kills Garrett when things get dicey between them. Gotta love family!
Once an worker of Jamie’s during his campaign for state attorney general, Christina (Katherine Cunningham) became briefly romantically linked with Jamie and fathered his child. As of season 5, they appear to not be together.
Jamie and Christina had a baby boy together, and though we all know he’s named after his father, it’s unclear if his name is Jamie or James.
Raised on the nearby Broken Rock Reservation, the loyal and intelligent Monica Long Dutton (Kelsey Asbille) is of course suspicious of the Dutton family’s intentions, though she has grown fonder of them as her son grows up and her husband, Kayce, falls back inside his father’s grasp. She has worked as a teacher each on and off the reservation.
The one surviving child of Kayce and Monica, Tate Dutton (Brecken Merrill) is an adventurous boy who—like his father and grandfather—has been through hell greater than once. But as one in all the few Dutton descendants who seems to understand the land as much as his forebears, it seems possible, if not going, that the ranch will eventually fall to his care. If Yellowstone goes down that route, it could invite some welcome nuance for the series to explore, because the mixed-race son of a cowboy and a Native American re-inherits the land once taken from his ancestors.
Lauren Puckett-Pope is an associate editor at ELLE, where she covers film, TV, books and fashion.