Why is Dutton's family tree such a controversial topic? - (2023)

Taylor Sheridan threw a curve ball to his fans last year when 1923 hit Paramount+. His five-season original series, Yellowstone, tells the story of the Yellowstone Dutton ranch in Paradise Valley, Montana, and the people who live and work there. Yellowstone and 1883 revealed different branches of the Dutton family tree, but in 1923 things began to get complicated.

Let's go back. Spoilers for Yellowstone, 1883 and 1923.

The story of one Montana family spanning 140 years


Why is Dutton's family tree such a controversial topic? - (1)

The Dutton family is led by John Dutton III, played by Kevin Costner, and the main plot follows his life, challenges and relationships, as well as his three adult children.

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Jamie (Wes Bentley), Wes Bentley, Beth (Kelley Reilly) and Kayce (Luke Grimes). Dutton's family tree was colorful but easy to understand.

1883 was released on Paramount+ in late 2021 and touted as a Yellowstone origin story. 1883, a single, ten-episode season that tells the story of James and Margaret Dutton, played by Tim McGraw and Faith Hill (a married couple in real life), as they travel west as part of a wagon train.


1883 filled in the gaps in how the Duttons came to Montana, and keen-eyed viewers recognized McGraw and Hill from Yellowstone season four flashbacks.

After reviewing the year 1883, we have more information on Dutton's family tree. Still easy to understand.

Sheridan's new show raises more questions than it answers

Why is Dutton's family tree such a controversial topic? - (4)


Things get complicated in 1923, and the main source of frustration is that we don't know who John Dutton Jr. is. (possibly John Dutton II).

John Dutton III is the current character played by Kevin Costner. We have a brief flashback of his father, aka John Dutton, during the Season 2 finale (Dabney Coleman). It is therefore reasonable to assume that John Dutton III's father is also named John Dutton.

But we find out what happened to James and Margaret

Why is Dutton's family tree such a controversial topic? - (5)

After seeing 1883, we know that John Dutton Sr. is James and Margaret's son, depicted as a little boy (Audie Rick). The first episode from 1923 filled in a few more gaps about what happened to the Duttons after they settled in Paradise Valley. .

The family settled in Paradise Valley because James and Margaret's daughter Elsa (Isabel May) died there. When the family learned of her imminent death (she was shot in the torso by an arrow and developed an infection), they agreed to settle where Elsa breathed her last so that Margaret could visit her grave regularly.

Part of the family graveyard is seen in the first season premiere, 1923. The headstones reveal that James lived not long after they settled in Montana. The flash from Margaret's tombstone irritates us. The dates are not shown, but the narrator (Elsa, who came back from the dead to provide a verbal introduction to the first few 1923 episodes) fills in the gaps, and we learn that Margaret froze to death trying to keep her sons warm during a Montana snowstorm.

That's right, two sons.

Who is John Dutton Jr. (and why do we want to know so much?)

Why is Dutton's family tree such a controversial topic? - (6)

James and Margaret had another child after settling in Montana. His name was Spencer, and while this may seem like a revelation, Yellowstone fans realize they've seen Spencer in flashbacks before.

When 1923 begins, John and Spencer Dutton are adults. John is married and has an adult son, Jack. Spencer, as far as we know, has no children. So who is John Dutton Jr.? The internet has questions, but the internet also has answers. Right?

Only time (and new episodes) will tell.

From Paramount+, several Dutton family trees have been circulating on the Internet since 1923. People take these family trees very seriously, although none come from the show's creator, who has been silent about the Dutton family tree.

Of course, the silence continues to fuel speculation, so let's discuss some possibilities.

What we know for sure (mostly)

Why is Dutton's family tree such a controversial topic? - (7)

John Dutton III is in his sixties if Yellowstone exists.

John Dutton Jr. he was elderly when he showed up at Yellowstone in 2019. His character's age was not listed, but he appeared to be around 85-90 years old.

According to these calculations, John Jr. 20-25, when John III was born, which would be reasonable in this period. Looking back, this would be the birth year of John Jr. between 1925-1930, give or take.

From this version of events, we conclude that John Dutton Jr. he wasn't born when Season 1 1923 ended, which we knew anyway because no children were born.

Are Spencer and Alex's parents John Jr.?

Why is Dutton's family tree such a controversial topic? - (8)

There is a suspicion that Alexandra Dutton, Spencer's fiancée, was pregnant at the end of the first season in 1923. Of course, this speculation is based solely on the fact that she was nauseous on the ship, but that seems reasonable given the amount of exercise the babies were given these popular lovebirds.

If Alex is pregnant, baby Dutton would have been born in 1924, so the above calculation holds, giving Alex and Spencer's parents John Jr.

But would Spencer and Alex name their son John Dutton II after Spencer's late brother? This seems wrong.

Are Jack and Elizabeth's parents John Jr.?

Why is Dutton's family tree such a controversial topic? - (9)

Jack (John Sr.'s son) and his wife Elizabeth are not idle when it comes to childbearing and eventually become pregnant. Unfortunately, Elizabeth has a miscarriage, and the couple has many dubious dialogues about their lives when they can't have children.

This causes some fans to assume that Elizabeth will never have children, even though the doctor never said so. We can't assume that Jack and Elizabeth will never have little Duttons running around after one miscarriage. However, the “what if” conversation seems like a normal reaction to miscarriage in your first pregnancy.

Would Jack have his son John Jr. named after his father, John Sr.? Maybe. The dates would certainly fit, giving Elizabeth time to recover from her miscarriage and conceive again.

But what if Jack Dutton is John Dutton II?

Why is Dutton's family tree such a controversial topic? - (10)

We do not know exactly how old Jack Dutton was at the beginning of 1923. He is a young man, but old enough to get married and grow a mustache. What if Jack is John's nickname and his family calls him Jack to distinguish him from his father?

The math is far fetched, but what if Jack had been 18 in 1923? This would mean that he was born in 1905. Had he reached the mature age of 114, he would have died in 2019, whether or not he was. It's quite old, breaking the world record for the oldest living person.

But when Taylor Sheridan began writing the saga of this family, did he expect the huge amount of interest in the Dutton line?

Are viewers supposed to dive that deep?

Why is Dutton's family tree such a controversial topic? - (11)

Even though Yellowstone first aired in 2018, and it felt like it was right in the present, could the story have started a bit earlier? Can we give a place?

Speculation is fun, if frustrating, for instant gratification seekers who want answers to yesterday. But should we explore the possible birth dates of fictional TV characters to this extent?

We expect the answer to be revealed in the second season of 1923, but Taylor Sheridan knows he has a legion of completely addicted fans. Will it lead him to solve the mystery where John Dutton, Jr. belongs to the Dutton family tree? Only Taylor Sheridan knows about it and has not said anything yet.



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