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The Entire Family Tree From 1923 Explained

A period-set drama with a pair of legendary Hollywood leads, "1923" is the next series from creator Taylor Sheridan after Sylvester Stallone's "Tulsa King" and an expansion of the "Yellowstone" universe. In 2021, fans of "Yellowstone" were treated to the first-ever spin-off, a prequel series titled "1883" that chronicled the ancestors of Kevin Costner's John Dutton as they set out to stake their claim in the Western frontier.

Now, "1923" moves the story forward 30 years and finds the children of James and Margaret Dutton all grown up. In the intervening years, the Dutton Ranch has expanded under the leadership of James' brother Jacob (Harrison Ford) and his wife Cara (Helen Mirren), and a whole new generation of Duttons calls it home. But just because the Duttons have finally established their home in Montana doesn't mean their problems are over. In fact, the 1920s bring with them a whole host of new challenges, as the nation recovers from both a World War and a pandemic.

The Duttons will face a number of challenges in "1923," but thankfully they are now a bigger family than ever before. The show's complicated ancestry and lineage — before and after — may leave viewers scrambling to remember who's who on the series. Without further ado, we're here to explain the Dutton family tree on "1923" and how it connects to both the past and the future.

James and Margaret, the first Duttons

Margaret and James Dutton are the first members of the Dutton family we meet, chronologically speaking that is, as they led the prequel series "1883." While this pair of settlers is not the focus of the "Yellowstone" spin-off "1923," their absence from the proceedings casts a long shadow. What they left behind forms the basis for the events that unfold. 

Played by the real-life husband and wife duo of Tim McGraw and Faith Hill — both country music stars to boot — they set out for a new life in Oregon from their home in Tennessee. After joining an ill-fated wagon train across the frontier, death and disaster forced them to stake their claim in Paradise Valley, Montana. The premiere episode of "1923," however, confirms that James died 10 years after arriving in Montana in 1893, which was seen briefly in flashback in a previous episode of "Yellowstone."

 Following his passing, Margaret made a desperate plea to her husband's brother Jacob (Harrison Ford) to come and lead the family on the Dutton Ranch. In the premiere of "1923," it's also revealed that, when he arrived a year later, he discovered Margaret dead in a snowdrift, the victim of a bitter winter. Both "1883" and the fate of the founding Duttons makes clear that not every death in the Wild West was a grand or noble one. 

Elsa, the first casualty of the frontier

The central character of "1883," Elsa Dutton was played by actress Isabel May in all 10 episodes of that series. She was also the first Dutton to die on the frontier, killed by an infection caused by a Lakota arrow received in a battle during their trip to Oregon. It was Elsa's death that forced the Dutton clan to stop in Montana and stake their claim in Paradise Valley. While she died at the conclusion of that series, she continues to have a part in "1923" as the series' narrator.

Surprising audiences in the premiere, Isabel May returns in a voiceover role, providing narration from beyond the grave. It's Elsa who informs the audience of her mother and father's fate and recaps the events that occurred between 1883 and 1923. She also offers up a foreboding warning in the premiere about what is to come, revealing that only one of her parent's children will live to see his children grow and "carry the fate of this family through the Depression and every other hell the 20th century hurled at them." She also claims that the family empire will crumble under Jacob's watch.

Though she lost her life before the Yellowstone-Dutton Ranch was even founded, Elsa — Jacob's niece — remains a forceful presence. Her gravestone can still be seen in current episodes of "Yellowstone," and it would seem that she still has a part to play in the events of "1923" as well. 

Jacob Dutton, the family savior

Harrison Ford is the star of "1923" in his first foray into television after leading blockbuster franchises and big-screen movies for decades. Here he plays Jacob Dutton, owner of the Yellowstone-Dutton ranch, which around this time is a veritable empire. Jacob is the brother of "1883" star James Dutton, and he arrived in the region after James' death in 1893. This also makes him the brother of Claire Dutton, who took her own life after the death of her daughter Mary Abel at the beginning of the prior prequel series. In "1923," Jacob is also now adopted father to his brother James' surviving children, John and Spencer.

Jacob also serves as Montana's livestock commissioner, the same role that will one day be held by his descendants John Dutton III and later Kayce Dutton many decades later on "Yellowstone." This suggests that the family has controlled the government position since Montana's founding. We also learn that Jacob has made enemies among rival landowners who resent the large area of Montana that his family calls home. This becomes particularly problematic at a time when the region is ravaged by both drought and locusts that have dried the land and decimated its wildlife.

With "1923" setting the stage for a range war, Jacob will have to be just as fierce as James before him, and John III after him, if he's to protect the family legacy. From the looks of things, he's got more than enough moxie in him to take on all comers.

Cara Dutton, the new caretaker

Helen Mirren co-stars as Cara Dutton alongside Harrison Ford. It's a reunion for the two Hollywood stars, as they both once played a husband and wife pair in the 1986 jungle drama "Mosquito Coast." 

Cara Dutton is Jacob's wife, who hails from Ireland (judging by her accent) and arrived on the Yellowstone-Dutton Ranch with her husband in 1894. She has served as the family matriarch. On her arrival in Montana, she took in James and Margaret's children John and Spencer and raised them as her own. 

The close bond between Cara and her nephews is evident from the very beginning, as her emotional letter to Spencer makes clear. She is also just as close to her grandson Jake — son of John I — as she helps him smooth over an incident with his fiancée Elizabeth in the series premiere. She makes it clear to Elizabeth that being the wife of a rancher is a tough job. 

Cara is a kind and gentle family leader, but it's also firmly established in the premiere episode that she can be just as fierce and deadly as any future Dutton when her family is threatened. While her husband Jacob, as both ranch owner and livestock commissioner, is willing to stand up to any thug, Cara too can tangle with the best of them and is not to be underestimated.  

John, the survivor

Some "Yellowstone" and "1883" fans may have been surprised to see Harrison Ford cast in the lead role of "1923," and not just because the actor is famous for blockbuster roles and has never starred in a television series. It's because many "Yellowstone" fans may have assumed that the period-set spin-off would be centered on the now-middle-aged Dutton son John, a forebear of Kevin Costner's John Dutton III. In an unexpected development, however, John the First — played by actor James Badge Dale — is only credited as a recurring character, not the heart of the show.

John is the son of James and Margaret Dutton. He was just a child when we first met him in "1883," where he was played by youngster Audie Rick. By the events of "1923," he is all grown up: in his mid-40s, married to Emma Dutton, and with a grown son of his own named Jack (more on him later). John serves as his uncle Jacob's right-hand man in his job as livestock commissioner, and also appears to play a big role in running the Yellowstone-Dutton Ranch, in what seems analogous to the part of Rip Wheeler on "Yellowstone." This means he runs the bunkhouse, corrals the cowboys and ranch hands, and ensures that ranch operations run smoothly. 

What may be most unsettling is that we know that only one of James Dutton's progeny will live through the 20th century, according to Elsa. Will it be John, or is he destined to die in "1923?"

Emma, the mother of all Duttons

In "Yellowstone," Beth Dutton's role in maintaining the ranch is largely procedural. But in "1923" — the year and the series — things work quite a bit differently. Women are integral to the day-to-day operations of the property. That means the likes of Emma Dutton, the wife of John Dutton the first, have key parts to play in ensuring the ranch runs smoothly.

Played by actress Marley Shelton ("Scream"), Emma is not only John's wife but also a caretaker for the ranch when the cowboys are away. She tends to the horses and keeps the grounds in the absence of her husband, Jacob, Jack, and others. In this era of the Yellowstone, the women are often left to take care of the ranch on their own as cowboy business keeps the ranch hands gone for days, weeks, or even months at a time.

Spencer, the big game hunter

We first met James' son Spencer Dutton in "Yellowstone" in a flashback set in the year 1893. He wasn't born yet during the events of "1883," when the Duttons were making their way across the plains, putting his birth somewhere in the 1880s. In "1923," he's played by actor Brandon Sklenar (who recently starred as Burt Reynolds in "The Offer"), and in something of a surprise, he isn't on the Dutton Ranch when we first meet him.

As the series begins, we learn that Spencer Dutton is a veteran of the Great War — what we now call World War I — and is still haunted by his experiences in combat. Since that time, Spencer has taken up a job in Africa as a big game hunter. In the premiere, he serves as a soldier of fortune hired by British colonizers to rid tourist locales of dangerous wild animals like lions and leopards. We also see how much his Aunt Cara — who raised him after the death of his mother — still misses him as she writes to him across the world, wondering if his absence is some form of punishment. 

We're not quite sure where Spencer's story in "1923" will take him just yet, but there's a fair chance he won't stay away from the ranch forever.

Jack, the upstart cowboy

In an unexpected leading role is a Dutton we've previously not heard much about (or maybe we have, but hold that thought). His name is Jack Dutton and he's played by Darren Mann ("Chilling Adventures of Sabrina"). Mann may be in his 30s, but from the looks of it, Jack is much younger. He's the son of John Dutton and, in the premiere episode, is engaged to be wed. Raised by his parents on the Dutton Ranch, he maintains a close relationship with his grand-aunt Cara and is a capable cowboy himself.

Here's the kicker when it comes to Jack Dutton: Though unconfirmed so far in "1923," it seems at least possible that Jack is actually a younger version of John Dutton Sr., the elderly ancestor we've met before in flashbacks in "Yellowstone." The father of Kevin Costner's John Dutton, he was played by actor Dabney Coleman in a touching scene with his son atop a mountain range as he said goodbye to the Yellowstone one final time. In that scene, it's noted that John Sr. is in his 90s, which would put his birthdate around the turn of the 20th century, lining up neatly with Jack's age if he is in fact 18-20, as we presume.

Of course, Kevin Costner's John Dutton III also notes that he's a sixth-generation Montanan, meaning that his father may in fact be Jack's son. Could Jack actually be the father of Kevin Costner's John Dutton? Only time will tell.

Elizabeth, the newest Dutton

As of the premiere of "1923," Elizabeth Strafford is set to become the newest member of the Dutton family. A young woman and daughter of a rancher herself, her father is a friend of Dutton patriarch Jacob, and she's set to be married to Jacob's grand-nephew Jack when the series begins. The ceremony is postponed after a weeks-long cattle drive suddenly becomes necessary and she is none too happy about it. It's then that Elizabeth gets the harsh reality check that being the wife of a rancher will be no picnic.

If Elizabeth is the soon-to-be wife of the young upstart cowboy Jack Dutton, that may also make her the mother of Kevin Costner's John Dutton III on "Yellowstone." Nevertheless, there is some evidence to suggest she may instead be his grandmother: If Jack and Elizabeth are wed in 1923, it would seem odd for them not to have any children until the 1950s, around the time when John Dutton III is born. For now, there's still plenty of story left to be told in "1923," but we fully expect the series to tie up the Dutton Family Tree with the story of Elizabeth and Jack's impending marriage.

The Yellowstone Dutton

Though we're still not 100% certain how the rest of the Dutton family tree grows, we do know that it won't be much longer past "1923" for us to start seeing some familiar faces. Whether Jack Dutton is the same man we've already met on "Yellowstone" played by Dabney Coleman, or whether he's his father — or even an uncle — it's clear that those family figures aren't far away, and may even pop up at some point over the course of "1923's" two seasons. 

As mentioned, the man referred to by fans as "John Dutton Sr." is properly known as John Dutton II, the father to Kevin Costner's John Dutton III, and he may in fact be the Jack Dutton who leads "1923," or his son. But there are still other options, as creator Tyler Sheridan could throw us a curveball with a new family linkage we don't see coming. Regardless of how he is related to the characters in "1923," we know he'll manage the Yellowstone-Dutton Ranch through the latter half of the 20th century. 

At some point in the 1950s, John Dutton II will sire his namesake, John Dutton III. In the late '80s or early '90s, he will pass ownership of the ranch to John III before his death, as seen in "Yellowstone" Season 2.

The future caretakers

The next generation of Duttons on the family tree is perhaps the most diverse group in the legacy of the Yellowstone-Dutton Ranch. In the premiere episode of "Yellowstone," John Dutton III's eldest son Lee Dutton is killed, leaving Kayce and Jamie as the only male heirs. Kayce was at the time an outcast, living with his Native American wife Monica on the Broken Rock reservation. It's also later revealed that Jamie Dutton was adopted. Whether his father John will view Jamie as a true member of the family still remains to be seen.

On the other side of things, John III's daughter Beth is a ruthless corporate raider and seems far less interested in the family's fortune where the ranch is concerned. She's also unable to bear her own children. She has married Yellowstone's enforcer, Rip Wheeler, a tough-as-nails cowboy who essentially runs the ranch.

When the time comes for John Dutton III to hand over the Yellowstone to his heirs, it will be interesting to see to whom he'll leave it: Kayce, his son by blood; Jamie, his son by choice; or his daughter Beth and son-in-law Rip Wheeler. Of course, that all assumes the ranch is still standing when all is said and done, as "Yellowstone" could culminate with the end of the legacy we're witnessing in "1923."

The next generation of Duttons

Beyond Kayce, Jamie, and Beth lies another generation of Duttons, who are but children now. First and foremost among them is Tate Dutton, the now-teenaged son of Kayce and Monica. As it stands, Tate is the only one of his generation in the family to be related by blood to the Dutton lineage that can be traced back through John Dutton I in "1923" and all the way to James and Margaret Dutton of "1883." Tate does have a familial cousin beyond blood, however, with Jamie's son by his former assistant Christina, Wesley Dutton Jr., continuing to carry the family name.

More distant is Carter, the young boy taken in by Beth Dutton and her husband Rip Wheeler, a wayward child whom they are raising as their own. But this generation of Duttons — by blood or otherwise — could spell doom for the family and their legacy. When James Dutton first settled in Paradise Valley, it was said that, in seven generations, the indigenous people of the region would rise up and take the land back from them. If Jack Dutton is the grandfather of John Dutton III, then Tate and his generation could signal the end of the Yellowstone-Dutton Ranch.