If you’re a fan of TLC shows, family drama, or just good old reality television, you’ve undoubtedly heard of the the Duggar family. And if you’re not, you’ve probably heard of them anyway, but why?
Who is the Duggar Family from 19 Kids and Counting?
The Duggar family hail from Tontitown, Arkansas, a small town near Springdale. Led by patriarch Bob and matriarch Michelle, the family had its first taste of fame after making several appearances on TLC and Discovery Health specials (such as 14 Children and Pregnant Again!, Raising 16 Children, 16 Children and Moving, On the Road with 16 Children) that focused on the delivery of Michelle’s most recent babies at the time, up until her 17th child in August 2007.
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This special programming introduced America not only to the ever-growing family, but to their conservative and religious beliefs (they are members of the Independent Baptist Christians and the Institute in Basic Life Principles organization); their penchant for names that begin with the letter J (all the Duggars’ offspring have a J name: Josh, Jana, John-David, Jill, Jessa, Jinger, Joseph, Josiah, Joy-Anna, Jedidiah, Jeremiah, Jason, James, Justin, Jackson, Johannah, Jennifer, Jordyn-Grace and Josie); their belief in homeschooling their children; their adherence to modest dress (no shorts, or shoulder/cleavage exposing shirts are allowed nor is swimming in public places or certain media); and their buddy system that designates one older child to look after and take charge of a younger sibling.
The family gained further fame with the release of their first TLC reality series in September 2008, originally titled 17 Kids and Counting, then 18 Kids and Counting and finally 19 Kids and Counting as the brood grew. The show ran for seven years on TLC until its 2015 cancelation when a 2006 police report revealed that when the eldest Duggar child, Josh, was 14 to 15 years old he had allegedly sexually molested five young girls, including four of his sisters. By May 22, 2015 TLC had removed all reruns of the show from its schedule and on May 16, the show was canceled for good.
Nonetheless, in December 2015 a three-part spin-off series, Jill and Jessa: Counting On, featuring newlyweds Jill and Derick Dillard, Jessa and Ben Seewald, Anna Duggar and some of the other adult Duggar children, aired on TLC. Josh is not present on the show. In March of 2016 the series was picked up for a full season premiering on March 15.
Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar (Parents)
Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar married on July 21, 1984 when Jim Bob was 19 and Michelle was 17. They waited four years to have their first child, a son they named Josh. The Duggars tried to have another child, but Michelle suffered a miscarriage. (The Duggars claimed the loss of the baby was a result of Michelle’s continued use of birth control at the time — she had not realized she was pregnant.) From that time onwards, the couple decided to let God “bless them with as many children as He saw fit” since, as followers of the evangelical Christian movement Quiverfull, the Duggars believe children are God’s blessing and that parents should happily welcome every child they are given.
Between 1999 and 2002, Jim Bob served in the Arkansas House of Representatives for the sixth district. He was vice chair of the House of Corrections and Criminal Law Subcommittee. In 2002, Jim Bob ran in the Republican Party of Arkansas primary election for the United States Senate. He lost by a vote of 20,546 to 71,576 to Senator Tim Hutchinson. In 2006, he ran for the Republican nomination to the Arkansas State Senate District 35, but lost out again, this time to Bill Pritchard.
In August 2014, Michelle spoke out against anti-discrimination legislation. In response to her statement a Change.org petition was started calling for 19 Kids and Counting’s cancelation. However, fans of the show and supporters of the family’s beliefs soon started a petition of their own to keep the show on the air. Each petition garnered over 100,000 signatures and the show was not canceled at that time.
Both Jim Bob and Michelle are licensed realtors and own a number of commercial properties. The couple has also co-authored two books together: 2008’s The Duggars: 20 and Counting! and A Love That Multiplies in 2011.
Josh Duggar (29, Son)
The eldest Duggar child was born on March 3, 1988. Josh appeared on the earlier Discovery Health Duggar family specials when he was 17 years old and then on TLC series until its cancelation. In 2008 he married Florida native Anna Keller and the couple’s nuptials were featured in an episode of the show, “A Very Duggar Wedding.” After a year of marriage, Keller and Josh welcomed their first child, a daughter named Mackynzie. The couple now has three other children: sons Michael and Marcus and daughter Meredith Grace.
In May 21, 2015 scandal rocked the Duggar family when In Touch Weekly reported that Jim Bob had told the Arkansas State Police that his oldest son had molested five girls between 2002 and 2003, when Josh was 14 and 15 years old. The information obtained from a redacted police report indicated that four out of five of the victims were Josh’s siblings. In 2002, Jim Bob become aware that Josh had inappropriately touched his sisters on multiple occasions when Josh confessed to him. Josh was disciplined at home at the time of the confession, but a year later when his parents learned of additional incidents and victims — including a much younger sister — Jim Bob brought the matter to the elders of their church. Josh was enrolled in a physical labor and counseling program and reportedly spent time away from the family at a rehabilitation facility in Little Rock, Arkansas founded by a family friend.
Years later, in 2016, an interview with Oprah Winfrey was canceled after an anonymous source informed the show’s producers of Josh’s actions and rumors began circling the internet. Josh then issued a statement apologizing for his actions. Since the statute of limitations to report the crime had expired by this point, Judge Stacey Zimmerman ordered all documents to be expunged the same day the article was published in May 2016, and no charges could be brought against Josh. Amidst the sandal, Josh and Anna announced the birth of their second daughter.
In August 2016, hackers released the names of users of the online dating service for married individuals, Ashley Madison. Josh Duggar’s name was on the list. Josh admitted to his infidelity and also to having a pornography addiction. In March 2017, the couple announced they were expecting their fifth child — a boy due later in the year.
Josh resigned his position as executive director of FRC Action, a non-profit lobbying arm of the conservative Family Research Council after the scandal broke, but remains an advocate for family-centered, conservative values and is opposed to abortion, divorce, and gay marriage.
Jill and Jessa Duggar (25 & 24, Daughters)
Jill is the second daughter born to Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar after their oldest daughter, Jana, and the fourth of the nineteen Duggar kids. She became known for her appearances on 19 Kids and Counting and then later on her spin-off show, Jill & Jessa: Counting On, alongside her younger sister, Jessa.
Jill began a courtship (as is the family’s approved style of dating) with Derick Dillard in November 2013. Jim Bob was a prayer partner to Dillard during a mission trip in Nepal and introduced the couple. After getting engaged in March 2014, the two exchanged vows by June of the same year. Five of Jill’s sisters and two of her brother were bridesmaids and groomsmen at the wedding. The couple saved their first kiss for their wedding day. On April 6 – after 70 hours of labor – Jill and Derick welcomed their first child, a son. They named him Israel David Dillard.
Derick graduated from Oklahoma State University-Stillwater with a degree in accounting and worked as a Walmart tax accountant until the family relocated to Central America to serve as missionaries for ten months in 2015. The couple’s second son is due July 2017.
In a June 2015 interview, Jill admitted to being one of her older brother’s molestation victims, but said that as she was asleep at the time and was unaware of the abuse happening until her brother confessed to her parents. She called the release of the police reports a “revictimization.”
Jill’s younger sister, Jessa, who also became known after making appearances on the early Discovery Health Channel specials, 19 Kids and Counting, and most recently for her role on the spin-off show, was also identified as a victim of her brother’s assault in the same interview. She described the abuse as “mild inappropriate touching.”
Jessa is the Duggar’s fifth child with 14 younger siblings. She met Ben Seewald through church and the couple began a courtship. By November 2014 they were married and one year later, Jessa gave birth to their first child, a boy named Spurgeon. Their second son, Henry Wilberforce Seewald, was born on February 6, 2017.
The sisters’ spin-off show, now known as Counting On, was created in the wake of the scandal and the cancelation of 19 Kids and Counting and features all of the Duggar kids and the Duggar parents, but not Josh.
Jill and Jess co-authored Growing Up Duggar: It’s All About Relationships with their sisters Jana and Jinger.
Anna Duggar (28, wife of Josh Duggar)
Anna Keller was born one of eight children to Mike and Suzette Keller in a strict religious household similar to the Duggars’. Anna met Josh Duggar at a Christian homeschooling convention in 2006 when she was a teenager. They were married two years later in 2008. Multiple episodes of the family’s TLC show documented important milestones in the couple’s relationship and a 2013 special titled “Josh & Anna: Our Story” looked back at the couple’s first five years of marriage.
After the molestation scandal sent her husband to rehab in 2016, Anna stayed with Josh and appeared on her sisters-in-law’s spin-off show to address the situation.
After news broke that the couple was expecting their fifth child, Anna took to the family’s website to share the news, stating: “For nearly the last two years, we have quietly worked to save our marriage, focus on our children, and rebuild our lives together as a family. Doing so is never easy after a breach of trust. We’ve learned that a life of faith and rebuilding a life together is simply done one day at a time.”
Amy Duggar (30, niece of Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar)
Amy King (née Duggar) is the niece of Jim Bob and Michelle and cousin to their 19 offspring. Deanna, Jim Bob’s older sister, is Amy’s mom. Amy frequently appeared in episodes of the TLC show and was featured in a special called “A Duggar Leaves Home,” in which she moved out to pursue a career as a country musician in Tennessee.
Amy has said she grew up very differently to her Duggar cousins with less strictly imposed pious standards. She admitted to having had sex before marriage, although said she waited to be with now-husband Dillion King until their wedding night.
The couple married in September 2015 and are currently taking part in the WE TV relationship series’ Marriage Bootcamp: Reality Stars, which has them ironing out the kinks in their marriage.
Josiah Duggar (20, son)
Josiah Duggar is the eighth-born of the Duggar clan and the fourth son. In April 2015, Josiah, then age 18, entered into a courtship with Marjorie Jackson (who was 17 at the time). The couple met when Josiah was taking Spanish lessons from Marjorie’s mom, Analucia. They officially began courting on the same day Josiah’s older sister Jill gave birth to her first son, Israel. However, in March 2016 it was announced that the young couple were no longer pursuing their courtship. “Marjorie and I had a good time together,” he told PEOPLE. “We were just trying to follow God’s lead on everything. She didn’t feel that it was the right timing then, so we called it quits for a bit.”
Josie (7, daughter)
Josie is the youngest of the Duggar brood. She was born nearly three months premature after mom Michelle suffered from preeclampsia. At birth, Josie weighed only 1 lb., 6 oz. and, just eight days later, her bowel perforated. She responded well to the placement of an abdominal drain and antibiotics, and nearly four months after Josie’s birth, her parents were able to take her home. She continued to be in and out of the hospital during the first few years of her life.
When she was 5 years old, the youngest Duggar family member suffered a seizure during the filming of an episode of the TLC series. She was rushed to hospital after being found unresponsive by her siblings, but soon returned home safe and well. Josie is the last of Duggar babies to date; in 2011 Michelle suffered a miscarriage of the 20th child, Jubilee.