If the word “Yellowstone” only conjures up images of the lush landscapes of America’s first national park, please forgive us for thinking that you’ve been living under a rock for the last five years.
That’s because “Yellowstone” the television show has become the most-watched scripted series in America since it burst onto screens in 2018.
Cocreated by Taylor Sheridan and John Linson, the Paramount Network series revolves around a ranch in Montana, named after its neighboring landmark.
At its center is John Dutton (Kevin Costner), an aging rancher who spends his life maintaining and protecting his family’s land and legacy in the face of myriad threats, and contemplating which of his children will be the right fit to take over his role when he dies.
In recent years, the world of “Yellowstone” has expanded beyond the flagship series. Two prequels, “1883” and “1923,” both featured other members of the Dutton clan, revealing more of the Dutton family tree and its ties to the Montana countryside.
Yet there’s still one genealogical question that has yet to be answered: Who is the direct ancestor of the modern-day family featured in “Yellowstone?”
The mystery has had fans of the franchise second-guessing themselves ever since “1923” introduced two possible contenders as John Dutton III’s grandfather: Jack (Darren Mann) and Spencer (Brandon Sklenar).
Even the stars of the franchise are in the dark about how the two generations of Duttons are related to each other.
“Everyone on the cast is speculating too,” Sklenar told Insider earlier this year.
Warning: Spoilers ahead for “Yellowstone” and spinoffs “1883” and “1923.”
Meet the Duttons
James Dutton was a Civil War soldier and the first patriarch of the Dutton family. He led his family out West from their home in Fort Worth, Texas, in search of a better future. He settled on the land where the Yellowstone ranch sits, which previously belonged to Indigenous people. He was told by a local native tribe that after seven generations, they would take back the land.
Margaret Dutton was the first matriarch of the Dutton family and mother to Elsa, John, and Spencer. She died of hypothermia during a bitter Montana winter, shortly after James died after being shot by horse thieves.
Elsa Dutton was the free-spirited daughter of James and Margaret Dutton. She died after she was shot with a poisoned arrow during a fight between her fellow travelers and a group of Indigenous people. The Duttons built their ranch on the spot where she eventually succumbed to her wounds.
Sam was a Comanche warrior whom Elsa married. She was his second wife. He avenged his first wife’s death by taking her killer’s name.
Claire Dutton was James’ deeply pious sister. She was a widow who had lost all of her six children when they were young, except her daughter, Mary Abel. After Mary died, she took her own life.
Henry was Claire’s husband who passed away before the events of”1883,” but outlived six of his children. He left his one remaining daughter, Mary Abel, and his wife behind.
Mary Abel Dutton
Mary Abel Dutton was Claire and Henry’s daughter. Like her mother, she held strong religious views, putting her at odds with her cousin Elsa. She died on the journey to Oregon when a gang attacked the camp.
Jacob Dutton was James’ older brother. He took over running the Yellowstone ranch when James and Margaret died. As explained in “1923,” he raised John and Spencer, who were just boys when their parents died. He was also commissioner of the Livestock Association.
Cara Dutton was Jacob’s loyal wife who was originally from Ireland. She saw John and Spencer as her own and wrote weekly letters to Spencer to convince him to return to Montana after the range war began in season 1.
John Dutton I
John Dutton I was James and Margaret’s eldest son who was originally introduced as a child in “1883.” In “1923,” he was the lead ranch manager before he was killed in a shootout by sheepherder Banner Creighton, leaving behind his wife, Emma, and son, Jack.
Emma Dutton was John Dutton I’s wife and mother to Jack Dutton and another child who died in infancy. After her husband’s murder, she shot herself.
Spencer Dutton was the youngest child of James and Margaret Dutton. He left the family homestead in Montana to fight in World War I but did not return after the war ended, instead choosing to become a big game hunter in Africa.
Alexandra Dutton was Spencer Dutton’s wife. She came from an aristocratic English family and chose to leave her fiancé and run off with Spencer after the two met in Africa. They married on a ship in international waters after several near-death experiences in season one of “1923.”
Jack Dutton was John I and Emma Dutton’s only son. He worked with his great-uncle, Jacob, on the Yellowstone ranch and married Elizabeth Stratford, the daughter of neighboring ranchers.
Elizabeth Dutton (née Stratford) was Jack Dutton’s wife. Like Jack, she lost her father in the shootout between the sheepherders and the Duttons. After that, she came to live at the Dutton ranch and became pregnant, but later miscarried.
John Dutton II
John Dutton II was the previous owner of the Yellowstone ranch. Upon his retirement, his son took over. He died of cancer several years before the events of “Yellowstone.” His last wish for his son was that he never give up the land.
John Dutton III
John Dutton III is in charge of one of the biggest cattle ranches in the United States. As of “Yellowstone” season five, he is also the governor of Montana.
Evelyn Dutton was John’s wife and the mother of their children. She died in a horseback-riding accident witnessed by Beth and Kayce.
Peter Dutton was the brother of John Dutton III who died shortly after his premature birth. He was alive for just 18 hours.
Lee Dutton was the eldest of John and Evelyn’s children and was meant to inherit the ranch from his father. He died from a gunshot wound after being caught in the crossfire of a fight between the ranchers and the Broken Rock tribe.
Beth Dutton is John and Evelyn’s only daughter and a cutthroat businesswoman who divides her time between working for the leading Montana bank, Schwartz & Meyer, and helping the family ranch. After an on-again, off-again relationship with Rip Wheeler, they married in season four.
Rip Wheeler is the ranch’s most loyal employee. He came to the ranch as a teenage orphan and has worked his way up to foreman. He is married to Beth Dutton.
Carter is a young boy whom Beth and Rip unofficially adopt in season four of “Yellowstone.” He had a troubled upbringing and lived in several foster homes before Beth took him under her wing following the death of his father.
Jamie Dutton is an attorney and was adopted by the Duttons as an infant. Across the seasons, he has fluctuated between helping his father and trying to destroy him. In season five, he tried to get John impeached as governor.
Christina was Jamie’s assistant when he was an attorney. Their professional relationship became a romantic one, but they broke up after Christina gave him an ultimatum to choose between her and his family. After disappearing for a while, she returned and revealed that she and Jamie had a son.
Jamie Dutton II
Jamie Dutton II is Jamie and Christina’s infant son. None of the Dutton family knows about his existence, apart from Beth, who only found out when she confronted Jamie about the baby seat in his car in season five.
Kayce Dutton is John and Evelyn’s youngest son and a former US Navy SEAL. He initially lived on the Broken Rock Indian Reservation with his wife and son before moving to the Yellowstone ranch.
Monica Long-Dutton is a teacher and professor married to Kayce Dutton. She is also the granddaughter of Broken Rock tribe elder Felix Long.
Tate Dutton is the son of Kayce Dutton and Monica Long-Dutton. As a descendant of both the Dutton family and the Long clan, he has a claim to the Yellowstone ranch land on both sides.
John Dutton IV
John Dutton IV was the second son of Kayce Dutton and Monica Long-Dutton. He died shortly after birth.