The parents of 19 and grandparents of 33, with two on the way, started out as high school sweethearts.
Michelle has recalled being "saved" at 15. Then, one night, Jim Bob was making home outreach visits on behalf of his Baptist church and he ended up knocking on the Ruark family's door after his friend told him that "this girl from school that just got saved and is a cheerleader" lived there.
They invited Michelle to Sunday school at their church and, Jim Bob said, he prayed to god that they could be each other's spiritual leaders—though apparently their first meeting wasn't as memorable for Michelle. A year later, she applied for a job at the frozen yogurt shop owned by Jim Bob's parents. "You came to the counter where I was standing by the cash register and introduced yourself," Michelle remembered in a letter posted on the family blog in 2017 for Jim Bob's birthday and their 33rd wedding anniversary. "You were shy but very sweet! I really don't remember much about that conversation, except that you finally mustered up the courage to ask me if I would go to your junior-senior banquet with you!"
She attended the dinner with him at Shiloh Christian, but it was when they hung out afterward discussing the Bible for hours at her parents' house that she knew."From there, we believe our hearts were knit together," Michelle has said. "We graduated high school in May of 1984 and were married in July. I was 17 and Jim Bob was 19."
The couple dedicated themselves to God and each other for the long run.
Jim Bob is a former state legislator, having served in the Arkansas House of Representatives for the sixth district from 1999 until 2002, during which he was vice chair of the House of Corrections and Criminal Law Subcommittee. A run for U.S. Senate in 2002 ended in the primary, as did a bid in 2006 to become the Republican nominee for Arkansas State Senate District 35.
He and Michelle, who are both licensed realtors, have been active in conservative causes—an aspect of their lifestyle that won them and 19 Kids and Counting (which premiered in 2008 as 17 Kids and Counting) both fierce supporters and fierce critics. A robocall Michelle recorded in 2014 encouraging people to vote against a proposed anti-discrimination ordinance in Fayetteville—in which she said she was calling to "inform" them of the so-called dangers of making it legal for transgender men and women to use the facilities they feel safest and most comfortable in—inspired a Change.org petition demanding TLC cancel their show.
The city council approved the ordinance.
Eldest Duggar child Josh was born March 3, 1988. He too became a conservative activist, campaigning for the Family Research Council.
He stepped down after old police records surfaced in 2015 revealing that he had been accused of molesting several girls, including his sisters Jessa and Jill, when he was a teenager. Jessa defended her brother in a sit-down with Fox News that June, insisting that the worst names people were calling Josh were "so overboard and a lie, really. I mean people get mad at me for saying that, but I can say this because I was one of the victims."
His wife also stuck by him, including after he admitted to being unfaithful. When he checked into a treatment center in 2016, his parents called it "a crucial first step in recovering and healing."Parents of three—daughter Mackynzie (Oct. 8, 2009) and sons Michael (June 15, 2011) and Marcus (June 2, 2013)—when the scandal broke, Anna gave birth to their fourth child, Meredith, on July 16, 2015, the same day TLC canceled 19 Kids. Their fifth child, son Mason Garett, was born Sept. 12, 2017, daughter Maryella Hope arrived Nov. 27, 2019 and baby No. 7, Madyson Lily, was born Oct. 23, 2021.
In a federal indictment filed in April 2021, Josh was charged with a count apiece of receipt and possession of child pornography. He pleaded not guilty on both counts. In 2022, Josh was found guilty on both counts, and sentenced to 12 and a half years in prison.
Shortly after Josh was born, Michelle got pregnant again, but suffered a miscarriage. While she and Jim Bob were still grieving that loss and praying for guidance, they found out that twins were on the way.
"We felt it was a double blessing," she told Love to Know. "God was encouraging our hearts. We're still learning. It's really so unusual, because I breastfeed my babies, but my children are so close together. I have a baby and then eight months later I'm expecting. Just another unusual thing the Lord has seen fit to do with our situation."
John-David and his sister Jana were born on Jan. 12, 1990.
After a whirlwind courtship (they did "know of each other" for several years, though, before meeting at a church event in Abbie's home state of Oklahoma) and a short engagement, John-David and Abbie got married on Nov. 3, 2018. They welcomed daughter Grace Annette Duggar on Jan. 7, 2020 and son Charlie Duggar in September 2022.
On their 30th birthday in January 2020, John-David's twin confessed in a sweet message to him, "Ever since John and I were little we've been asked if we have that 'twin thing'. You know, the thing where you feel what the other one is feeling or know what the other one is thinking...Well, John, I've always answered that with a no—but now I can honestly say that the day little Gracie was born I felt every bit of happiness that you did, so I guess it must be real!"
Jana continued, "It's so sweet watching you & Abbie as parents! You're naturals! And the same qualities that have made you a wonderful brother will also make you an amazing dad."
As for her personal life, while being single at 30 isn't exactly unusual, Jana knows she sticks out a bit as far as her own family goes—and she has a sense of humor about it, posing with a sign in August reading "PLEASE FORM SINGLE LINE," with an arrow pointing toward her.
"There have been different guys who have come along and asked, but they haven't been, I don't know, the right one," Jana said a few years ago on Counting On. "It's like this weird in-between stage. I'm not a younger one, but I'm not an older, married one with kids."
Jill was born on May 17, 1991. In a love story reminiscent of her parents', Jill first met Derick (who grew up about 45 minutes away) on Christmas 2011 when he stopped by the Duggar family abode while out caroling with his church group.
Jim Bob played matchmaker, and Jill and Derick hit it off, growing closer over email and Skype. Father and daughter went to visit Derick in Nepal that November and Jill and Derick continued to fall for each other. In February 2014, Derick asked Jim Bob for his daughter's hand in marriage, and they tied the knot on June 21, 2014. They are parents to three sons—Israel, born on April 6, 2015, Samuel, born July 8, 2017, and Frederick, born July 7, 2022.
The couple starred on 19 Kids and Counting and later, Counting On. Derick was fired from the show in 2017 after making homophobic remarks about fellow TLC reality star, Jazzy Jennings.
Jill and Derick reflected on the controversies and religious beliefs surrounding her family in the Amazon Prime Video documentary Shiny Happy People: Duggar Family Secrets, which premiered in June 2023.
Jim Bob and Michelle's fifth child was born Nov. 4, 1992.
Jessa met Ben through church and he began courting her in 2013—the old-fashioned approach to romance coming as a brand-new notion to a lot of viewers. The kids never talked about their romances pre-engagement, so Jim Bob explained to People, "Courting is getting to know each other in a group setting, both families spending time together and the couple setting goals together to determine if they are meant to marry. With dating, a couple will often pair off alone and that sometimes leads to a more physical relationship."
Ben asked for Jessa's hand and then proposed in August 2014—sealing the deal by holding her hand for the first time. They married on Nov. 1, 2014. Jessa was pregnant with their first child when 19 Kids and Counting was canceled and TLC subsequently aired a special about sexual abuse, featuring Jill and Jessa, to further educate viewers on the subject. The sisters would end up the stars of their own show, Jill and Jessa: Counting On, that winter; the show then evolved to become Counting On, featuring other Duggar siblings as well.
Meanwhile, Jessa and Ben welcomed son Spurgeon on Nov. 5, 2015, son Henry on Feb. 6, 2017, daughter Ivy Jane on May 28, 2019 and daughter Fern in July 2021. In February 2023, Jessa shared that she suffered a miscarriage over the 2022 holiday season. She gave birth to her fifth child, George, in December 2023.
The sixth Duggar child was born Dec. 21, 1993.
Jinger and Jeremy met doing ministry work in Laredo, Texas, and started courting in 2016. They married on Nov. 5, 2016 (the bride's nephew Spurgeon's birthday—but you just try not overlapping milestones when you're one of 19), and were promptly the subject of pregnancy rumors.
"Where we see ourselves in a year is probably just settled down, still doing ministry here in Laredo, and just seeking to serve the Lord, however, we can," Jinger said on a June 2017 episode of Counting On.
Their daughter Felicity was born July 19, 2018. In May of that year, they revealed that Jinger was pregnant again—and that she had suffered a miscarriage the previous fall. In November 2020, they welcomed daughter Evangeline Jo.
No. 7 was born on Jan. 20, 1995. Taking advantage of the romantic setting, Joseph proposed to Kendra (whom he met through church) at his sister Joy-Anna's wedding in May 2017 after just a few months of courting.
"I was definitely nervous going into it, but I wasn't afraid that she was going to say no, because she has said, 'I'm just waiting on you!'" Joseph told People after popping the question. Added Kendra, "I'm so happy and so shocked. There's so many words I want to say, but just shocked."
They've since welcomed three kids, son Garrett, born June 2018, daughter Addison, born November 2019, daughter Brooklyn, born February 2019, and son Justus born May 2023.
Eighth in line, Josiah was born on Aug. 28, 1996.
Just a few months after his courtship with Lauren went public, the couple announced their engagement in March 2018. "The place where I proposed to Lauren is the exact spot where her parents were engaged," he said in a statement. "There's a lot of family history on this property making it a special place for Lauren."
Her future mother-in-law, Michelle, said in a video posted on the family's blog, "We love Lauren, she is such a precious girl." Jessa and Ben also offered congratulations, and chocolate shaped like x's and o's. "Pretty sure that y'all want to save your first kiss for your wedding day, but if you come over here we'll give you..." She held up the sweet consolation prize.
A previous courtship with Marjorie Jackson didn't work out and they went their separate ways in the summer of 2015. "Marjorie and I had a good time together," Josiah recalled to People in March 2016. "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."
He and Lauren tied the knot June 30, 2018, telling People their wedding day was "absolutely perfect." They welcomed daughter Bella Milagro on Nov. 8, 2019—the name translating to "miracle baby," after the couple revealed Lauren had suffered a miscarriage in October 2018. They welcomed another daughter, Daisy, in 2022, and a son whose name is not public in May 2023.
The ninth Duggar sibling was born Oct. 28, 1997.
She knew Austin for 15 years as a friend before he started courting her—after which they didn't waste any time. He proposed in February 2017 and they married on May 26, 2017, at Cross Church in Rogers, Ark. (the wedding where Joseph proposed to Kendra!). They welcomed son Gideon Martin Forsyth on Feb. 23, 2018.
In 2019, Joy-Anna suffered a pregnancy loss with a baby girl at 20 weeks along.
On Aug. 21, 2020, the couple welcomed daughter Evelyn Mae Forsyth.
The couple's third child, son Gunner James Forsyth, was born on May 17, 2023.
Jim Bob and Michelle's second set of twins were born on Dec. 30, 1998.
It was reported in February 2017 that Jed was interning at his dad's old stomping grounds at the state capitol, working for the Arkansas House of Representative—and at 21 he's on the ballot running for State Representative for District 89, committed to "putting Springdale's conservative values first." He married Katey Nakatsu after one year of courting in April 2021. They are parents to son Truett, born May 2022, and daughter Nora Kate, born June 2023.
Jeremiah, a certified flight instructor, is married to Hannah Wissmann and the two are parents to daughter Brynley, born December 2022, and Brielle, born February 2024.
Duggar child No. 12 (here with his niece Meredith) was born on April 21, 2000.
In January 2017, the Daily Mail reported that Jim Bob helped Jase buy a $33,000 fixer-upper in Prairie Grove, Ark., about 30 minutes away from the Duggar family homestead, and he ended up starting his own construction company. But of course he wasn't too busy to help Jed with his campaign.
They grow up so fast!
Charmed No. 13, James arrived on July 7, 2001.
On his 19th birthday in 2019, his mom wrote, "He is the 'funcle' (fun uncle!) and all the younger boys around here look up to him and want to be just like him! James is able to do just about anything he thinks up. Even as a child, we would find James 'fixing' various household appliances. He has always been one to take things apart, figure out how they work, and put them back together—with a few special modifications!
"This year James worked hard to get his CDL, and he has become an expert at driving all the big trucks and heavy machinery! We can't wait to see what God has in store for him in the future!"
No. 14 arrived on Nov. 15, 2002.
And from the department of growing up so fast...
Justin went public with girlfriend Claire in September 2020. The two got engaged the following November and on Feb. 26, 2021, they married.
Here with his big sister Jill, Jim Bob and Michelle's 15th child was born May 23, 2004.
On his 16th birthday, mom Michelle praised Jackson's sense of humor and noted that she knew he couldn't wait to get his driver's license.
Duggar baby No. 16 was born Oct. 11, 2005.
"This girl is so fun and outgoing, and she loves making new friends," Michelle wrote on Johannah's 15th birthday in 2020. "Her younger sisters absolutely adore her and think she hung the moon, and I couldn't be more grateful to God for choosing me to be her Mom!"
No. 17 arrived on Aug. 2, 2007. Back when it was just 17 Kids and Counting, Jenni was the baby of the family.