The Kardashian Family Tree Explained

The Kardashian dynasty is, without doubt, one of the most powerful and influential in recent memory. Ever since "Keeping Up with the Kardashians" first made its way onto our screens, fans have been enamored by this ever-burgeoning brood, and the name "Kardashian" is now recognized throughout the world. Despite the show having come to a grand finale after 20 seasons in 2021, there seems to be no end in sight for Kardashian fever. While fellow socialite (and Kim's erstwhile BFF) Paris Hilton preceded the success of the series with "The Simple Life," no one else in the augmented reality field has ever quite matched Kim K. and her ilk. Hashtag fact.

But what are the origins of these riveting relatives? The Kardashian family tree is a rather perplexing puzzle, with myriad Kardashians and Jenners — not to mention the smattering of Disicks and Websters — rising to fame and regaling us with their innumerable antics.

From war-torn Armenia, the Kardashians decided to pack up and head to the States, where the various elder kinsfolk enjoyed immense prosperity and success. Along the way, there have been numerous additions to the family via marriages, flings, and rumored affairs. And thus, a reality TV empire was born. Here's the Kardashian family tree, explained.

The Kardashian kids' great-great grandparents escaped the Armenian genocide

Family patriarch Robert Kardashian's great grandparents hailed from Armenia and resided in the village of Karakale, per People. According to the Daily Mail, the original family name was Kardaschoff, which was due to Eastern Armenia being under the rule of the Russian Empire. In 1914, the family escaped to America just before the Armenian genocide, which killed 1.5 million people.

As chronicled in Ian Halperin's book "Kardashian Dynasty," the Kardashian clan fled to the U.S. on two separate ships. It was on the SS Köln that Robert's grandfather Tatos, later anglicized to Tom, met his wife, Hamas Shakarian. Once in America, Tatos started a garbage truck business in Los Angeles and became a wealthy man, thereby propelling the family towards the American dream.

Kim Kardashian has been vocal in her condemnation of the genocide that forced her family out of their homeland. In an emotional essay for Time in 2015, she expressed her anger and frustration at genocide denial, as the horrific massacre still isn't recognized by Turkey to this day. "We have no existing family left in Armenia. Had they not escaped, we wouldn't be here," she wrote. "There are so many people who lost their families ... they should never be forgotten. The whole point of remembering the genocide is to make sure it doesn't happen again. A million-and-a-half people were brutally massacred, and a country can just pretend like it never happened? I don't think that's right."

Arthur and Helen Kardashian were born in America

In 1917, Tatos and Hamas Kardashian welcomed a son, Arthur, who went on to marry fellow Armenian immigrant Helen Arkenian in 1938, per "Kardashian Dynasty." Evidently, the entrepreneurial mindset is in the Kardashians' blood. According to the Daily Mail, Arthur and Helen "ran the largest meat-packing business in southern California." From this business, as Ian Halperin writes in his book, they were able to become multimillionaires. Their son, Robert, was born in 1944, and suffice to say, he had a comfortable upbringing, having been raised in the swanky View Park district of Los Angeles.

Helen sadly died in 2008, aged 90, while Arthur died in 2012, aged 95. Kim has spoken fondly of her grandmother. On Instagram, she shared a wholesome throwback snap of Helen holding her as a baby, with the caption, "Me and my Nana! My dads [sic] mom, Helen Kardashian was the absolute best! She was such a force! Miss you Nana."

Kim has emphasized the Armenian pride instilled in her by her father, who urged his children to never forget their roots. "We were told that when a lot of Armenians moved, they took the "ian" off their last names in fear that they would be killed. 'Whatever you girls do, never change your last name—it's Kardashian,' he would say. He was very vocal and wanted us to never to forget where we came from," she wrote in Time.

Robert Kardashian married Kris Houghton in 1978

By the 1970s, Robert Kardashian was a successful lawyer and businessman. Famously — or infamously — he would later take on the O.J. Simpson case despite having not practiced law "for 15 years" prior to defending his long-time pal, per Biography. Before marrying the one-time Kris Houghton in 1978, Robert dated Priscilla Presley. He initially deemed Kris "too young" for a serious courtship, according to the book "The Kardashians: An American Drama," and theirs wasn't exactly a love story for the ages. Kris was 17 years old when she met the much-older Robert at a horseracing track, per The New York Times. She was dating someone else at the time but allegedly cheated on him with Robert. 

Kris came from a humble background and initially worked as a flight attendant. According to "An American Drama," her dream since 12th grade was to marry a rich man. An insider dished that Kris saw Robert as a "financial opportunity," but she turned down his first marriage proposal.

Once she donned the Kardashian name, Kris found herself mingling with A-listers, as she frequently hung out with O.J. Simpson, her husband's BFF, who was a highly successful NFL star at the time. The Los Angeles Times notes that Simpson attended Kris and Robert's wedding, and Kris became pals with Simpson's late wife Nicole Brown. "I just sensed that Kris saw in Bob a kind of gold mine," said Robert's priest, Kenn Gulliksen. "Robert was a very generous man, and that was especially good for Kris."

Robert and Kris Kardashian had four children together

Despite a rocky start, Robert Kardashian and Kris Jenner welcomed their first child, Kourtney, in 1979. Three more children — Kim, Khloé, and Rob — soon followed, all of whom are reality TV stars famed for "Keeping Up with the Kardashians," though Rob is arguably less successful in comparison to his business-savvy sisters. Despite living an A-list life of luxury, Kris allegedly felt unfulfilled by her domestic role within the Kardashian household. "[She] was coming home at two and three in the morning drunk, and she would tell Robert, 'I need my freedom,' " an insider told "The Kardashians: An American Drama" author Jerry Oppenheimer.

Subsequently, Kris began an affair with Todd Waterman, a soccer player. In her memoir, "Kris Jenner... And All Things Kardashian," she admits to the affair, though she refers to her lover under the pseudonym "Ryan." In an "OBJECTified" interview, she elaborated on her rationale for cheating. "I married Robert when I was 22 years old, and I got pregnant on my honeymoon — I had the happiest life you could've dreamt about," she explained. "But when you're in something, sometimes people think the grass is always greener, and that was like what I think I went through at some point."

Kim was particularly close with her father and decided to follow in his footsteps by embarking on a career as a lawyer. In an interview with Vanity Fair, she said that her dad "would love" her newfound career choice.

The Kardashians have some not-so-famous cousins

Through their father, the Kardashian siblings have a trio of similarly named cousins, Kara, Kourtni, and Krista. Unlike the ultra-famous reality TV stars, the three sisters lead pretty private lives and tend to stay away from social media altogether, per Cosmopolitan.

Kourtni and Kara joined the Kardashian sisters on their 2015 trip to Armenia, with Kim paying tribute to her cousins on Instagram. "Khloé & I brought along our cousins Kourtni & Kara Kardashian. We miss you Krista! Yes we have 3 cousins who are sisters that all start with a K too! LOL," she wrote.

On their mom's side, the Kardashians have a younger cousin, Natalie Zettel, who, according to her Instagram page, is a model. She's the daughter of the Kardashian siblings' maternal aunt, Karen Houghton. According to Star magazine (via Radar Online), Kris is rather embarrassed by her sister, supposedly due to her rather un-glam lifestyle, and opts not to post photos of her on social media.

"Kris is so over the top when it comes to being image-conscious," an insider said regarding the siblings' apparently strained relationship. "And while Karen is a totally down-to-earth sweetheart, she certainly doesn't come close to meeting the glam standards that Kris likes to publicly project for her family. That's also more than likely why you never see Karen on any of the family TV shows."

Kris married Caitlyn Jenner in 1991

In 1991, Robert Kardashian and Kris Jenner divorced, and she moved on to Olympic athlete Caitlyn Jenner. After a brief romance, the couple wed that same year. In an interview with HuffPost, Kris said that she was immediately besotted with Caitlyn, who proposed during a romantic dinner at a restaurant. "We were at a restaurant and [she] just dropped to a knee. ... [She] said, 'I am totally in love with you and would you marry me?' I was very surprised," she revealed.

In the 2021 "Keeping Up with the Kardashians" reunion special, (via TooFab), Kris reflected fondly on the marriage. "I think we had a lot of really great years," she said. "I think everything is meant to be and what is meant to be out of that relationship was Kendall and Kylie. ... it was such a blessing."

Despite their seemingly idyllic beginnings, Caitlyn has claimed that the marriage was less than perfect and has told a decidedly different account of their courtship. During her appearance on "Big Brother VIP" (via Mirror), Caitlyn claimed that Kris "forced marriage" on her after they'd been dating for less than six months, explaining, "She decided we should get married but I didn't want to because there were too many kids involved ... I respected their father." Before they tied the knot, Caitlyn recalled putting her foot down and telling Kris, "If we are doing this, I'm not staying at your house ... I'm not doing any of that." 

Kris and Caitlyn Jenner have two daughters together

Kris and Caitlyn Jenner's daughters, Kendall and Kylie, were born in 1995 and 1997, respectively. Kendall is an incredibly successful model, who was declared the highest-paid model of 2018 by Forbes. Meanwhile, Kylie is a businesswoman with a lucrative line of makeup called Kylie Cosmetics. In 2019, Kylie was hailed the world's "youngest self-made billionaire" by Forbes, though it has now come to light that she may actually be undeserving of this title due to irregularities in her financial records, per a 2020 Forbes report.

Caitlyn is super close to her biological daughters, with the girls branding her their "hero" in an interview with People. In particular, Kendall has always been the apple of Caitlyn's eye. Declaring her pride and elation at Caitlyn's decision to live her truth, Kendall said, "When my dad came out as transgender, our relationship grew. She could finally be honest with me. We could talk about deep emotions she was feeling through that time."

In 2015, Kris and Caitlyn called it quits. From that moment onwards, Caitlyn's relationship with the Kardashians has remained strained. In a "Life Stories" interview, Caitlyn revealed that she hasn't spoken to her stepdaughters in years. "I don't talk about that side of the family, I spent 23 years of my life with those kids. It's difficult to talk about it, terribly terribly sad," she stated, per the Daily Mail. "I've lost all relationship with them, yes, I don't talk to any of them anymore."

Khloé Kardashian's paternity has been questioned

There has long been a (dubious) rumor that Khloé Kardashian may actually be the daughter of Robert Kardashian's bestie and client O.J. Simpson. An insider claimed Robert and Kris were not having sex when Khloé was conceived. "It was my strong impression from him that [Robert] loved Khloé very much, but he said it in a way that implied that 'She's not my blood daughter,' " said Kenn Gulliksen, Robert's priest, per "The Kardashians: An American Drama."

Robert's widow, Ellen, whom he married in 2003, has alleged that her husband long believed that Khloé wasn't his biological child. "Robert did question the fact that Khloé was his," Ellen told Star magazine (via Radar Online). "Any normal man would if they knew their wife had cheated on him." In Touch has drawn comparisons between Khloé and O.J.'s daughter Sydney, who do bear a striking resemblance. Sadly, Robert died of cancer in 2003, aged 59, so he can't respond to the paternity allegations.

However, Simpson has denied fathering Khloé. He took to Twitter to refute the rumors, stating, "Never — and I want to stress never — in any way, shape, or form have I ever had any interest in Kris — romantically or sexually ... So all of these stories are just bogus, bad, tasteless. Khloé, like all the girls, I'm very proud of, just like I know Bob would be if he was here, but the simple facts of the matter is, she's not mine."

Kris Jenner has 10 grandchildren

The next generation of Karjenners consists of Kris' whopping 10 grandchildren. Kourtney was the first to start having kids. While she may be super loved up with rocker beau Travis Barker, Kourtney was formerly in a relationship with fellow reality star Scott Disick, and they had three kids – son Mason, born in 2009, daughter Penelope, born in 2012, and a second son, Reign, whom they welcomed in 2014. Sources have told People that Barker is a "sweet and loving" future stepfather to his ladylove's children.

With ex-husband Kanye West, or Ye as he is now known, Kim has welcomed four children – daughters North, born in 2013, Saint, born in 2015, and Chicago, born in 2018, as well as a son, Psalm, born a year later. Since their breakup, a source told ET that Kim and Kanye "have been coparenting successfully."

With NBA star Tristan Thompson, Khloé has a daughter named True, who was born a few months after her cousin, Chicago, while Rob also has one daughter, Dream, born in 2016, with model Blac Chyna. Finally, Kylie and rapper Travis Scott welcomed daughter Stormi in 2018, and Kylie announced that she was pregnant with the couple's second child in September 2021, expanding the brood even further.

Kris embraces the grandma role, telling People, "I'm so excited about life in general, my girls and my son and watching the grandkids grow. That's really fun." The momager told Us Weekly that, of all her many grandchildren, she is particularly close with Mason.

The future of the Kardashian family tree

It seems that many of the Karjenner grandkids may already be social media stars in the making. North West has a joint TikTok account with her mom, which has an impressive 5.2 million followers at the time of this writing. Likewise, Penelope Disick has a similarly popular TikTok with 3 million followers. Not bad for a couple of preteens.

As for Penelope's brother Mason, he apparently uses social media for shadier means. According to Capital FM, a secret Instagram account allegedly operated by Mason stirred up some Karjenner family drama. "Might delete this right away lol. But I'm genuinely curious, do people actually like my aunt Kendall? ... I find her so so boring," read a story post purportedly written by Mason. To paraphrase his aunt Khloé, it's raining shady kids everywhere.

Meanwhile, Stormi, who is barely out of diapers, frequently features on her mom's Instagram, where she can be seen sporting bling and designer gear worth a small fortune. "Expensive jewelry, the latest gadgets, you name it, Stormi has it," a source revealed to Life & Style. "[Kylie Jenner] can drop upwards of $100K in a week on her little girl!" As noted by Mirror, the youngster even wore an Hermès bag, worth around $12,000, to school.

Only time will tell if the next-gen Karjenners will continue the reality TV tradition of their famous forebears, but one thing's for sure: financial woes aren't on the horizon for these prosperous preteens. Money certainly grows on this family tree.