Since its premiere in 2009, Modern Family has taken viewers into the lives of the Dunphys and the Pritchetts. If you kept up with the show across its 11 seasons and 250 episodes, you know quite some time has elapsed throughout the series. Although each episode only shows you a portion of the characters’ lives, there’s still an entire family history that is slowly revealed as the show progresses.
Some of these events include marriages, divorces, and old business ventures, all of which lead up to the Modern Family we all know and love. Whether it’s a crazy new business idea from Phil Dunphy (Ty Burrell) or his father-in-law, Jay Pritchett (Ed O’Neill), trying to do what’s best for his family, it’s these tiny details that make the show shine. From Jay’s father being born in the 1920s to – spoiler alert – when Haley and Dylan Marshall have twins, almost a hundred years of Dunphy/Pritchett history occurs.
Here’s the entire Modern Family timeline explained.
When everyone was born
The first thing to get a grasp on is when everyone was born, specifically the older generation. There are several distinct generations in Modern Family. It all starts with Jay Pritchett’s father being born sometime in the mid-1920s. A few years later, Walt Kleezak (Phillip Baker Hall), the Dunphy neighbor, was born. Phil’s father, Frank Dunphy (Fred Willard), was born in the 1930s. The next decade saw Jay and his brother, Donnie (Jonathan Banks), born two years apart.
The next generation of adults started with Phil, born April 3, 1967. His wife, Claire Dunphy (Julie Bowen), was born a few years later in the early ’70s. Interestingly, Gloria (Sofía Vergara), Jay’s future wife, was also born around this time. By the early to mid-1970s, Cameron Tucker (Eric Stonestreet) and Mitch Pritchett (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) are born.
The following generation was born in the ’90s, starting with Phil and Claire’s first child, Haley Dunphy (Sarah Hyland), in March 1993. Alex Dunphy (Ariel Winter) came next on March 15, 1996, then Luke Dunphy (Nolan Gould) on Nov. 28, 1998, and finally, Manny Delgado (Rico Rodriguez), the son of Gloria and one of her previous husbands, Javier Delgado (Benjamin Bratt), was born on Jan. 19, 1999.
That leaves only the last generation: Lily Tucker-Prichett (Aubrey Anderson-Emmons), the adopted daughter of Cameron and Mitch, Joe Pritchett (Jeremy Maguire), the son of Jay and Gloria, and Haley’s twins. Lily was born on Feb. 19, 2008. Five years later came Joe. Finally, Haley and Dylan welcomed their twins, Paula ("Poppy") & George Marshall, on May 8, 2019.
What happened before the show started
It isn’t clear when the show starts, but the ’80s are when the storyline begins to develop. Jay and his best friend, Earl Chambers (Jon Polito/ Robert Costanzo), started a closet company, Closet Fornia. Four years later, Earl betrayed Jay and began his own closet company, which Jay then had to do as well. By then, Jay had been married to DeDe Pritchett (Shelley Long) for 15 years, and Gloria was still in her teens. At the end of the ’80s, Jay’s father passed away at the age of 63.
As mentioned before, the ’90s mainly consisted of the births of the third generation of kids. On top of that, a couple of important marriages happened. First, Phil and Claire got married on November 30, 1993, exactly nine months after Claire became pregnant with Haley, born just 10 days after the wedding.
Another important event to happen during the ’90s was Gloria marrying Javier in 1995. Gloria was only 23 years old when this happened, and Manny was born four years later.
What happened in the 2000s
The plot starts to take shape at the turn of the millennium when they all live near each other in the same town. To start the 2000s, Jay and DeDe got divorced in 2003. A couple of years later, Gloria and Javier began having problems, such as when he took their son Manny to the Petting Zoo, which turned out to be a strip club. The two divorced in 2006. Finally, Jay’s old friend, the judge, passed away in 2008.
The show officially starts in 2009, when three significant events take place. First, Jay and Gloria marry each other, causing the families some concern due to the age difference. Next, Mitchell and Cameron adopt Lily from Vietnam but are reluctant to tell the family the news. Finally, in November, Luke has a birthday party and breaks his arm. This is where fans get to see the classic Modern Family chaos for the first time.
What happened in the first half of the 2010s
The first significant milestone to take place once the show is established is Haley getting her driver’s license in 2010. That same year, Jay celebrates his 63rd birthday in Hawaii, where he wants to relax and eat junk food but can’t because he’s distracted by the thought of his father dying at the same age due to poor health.
In the next two years, Haley seems to have the most life changes, especially with boyfriend Dylan coming in and out of the picture. The two break up and get back together several times, including on Valentine’s Day and at Disneyland. Haley then graduates from high school and goes off to college, where she is kicked out due to underage drinking, resisting arrest, and accidental assault of an officer.
The following year, the Pritchetts welcome the newest member of their family, Joe, born the same day as his half-brother, Manny. This upsets Manny for a while, as he feels he lost all the attention to this younger half-brother. Unfortunately, as one new family member comes in, another leaves, and Phil’s mother, May, passes away.
In 2014, Mitchell and Cameron marry each other on the 25th anniversary of Jay’s father’s death. A few months later, the Dunphys meet the LaFontaine family, who eventually become a friendly neighborhood rival. By that point, Haley is 21, and Alex, Luke, and Manny are old enough to babysit Lily — that is, until Gloria runs into Andy Bailey (Adam DeVine), Phil’s former business partner and Hayley’s ex, at the park, and he starts to watch Joe. This turns problematic when Joe calls Andy "dada" for the first time.
What happened in the second half of the 2010s
The beginning of 2015 sees the end of the feud with the LaFontaine family. Around the same time, Alex gets into her first relationship with Sanjay Patel and graduates from high school. Unfortunately for the couple, they break up only a few months later. A lot is happening at this time in terms of relationships among the third generation of kids. Not only does Alex gain and lose a boyfriend, but Hayley and Dylan get back together. On top of that, Andy gets engaged to his girlfriend, Beth (Laura Ashley Samuels). While all of this is happening, the parents try their best to keep their children happy, their marriages alive, and their businesses successful.
Haley and Dylan break up again, and Haley eventually meets Dr. Arvin Fennerman (Chris Geere), one of Alex’s professors at Caltech. This relationship fizzles out when Haley runs into three of her ex-boyfriends, Andy, Dylan, and Rainer Shine (Nathan Fillion), her most recent ex-boyfriend. Haley eventually decides she wants to be with Dylan, who announces their first child a few months later. Once again, as new family members enter the show, another must leave, and DeDe passes away in her sleep on Halloween 2018. Dylan and Haley have twins and temporarily move into Phil and Claire’s house until they later move to California. They become the fourth married couple on Modern Family.
How Modern Family came to an end
As the show comes to an end in 2020 after 11 seasons, some loose ends are tied up. First, in the season finale, Cameron and Mitch decide to adopt another baby, named Rexford, and move to Missouri so Cameron can work at the University of Northern Central Missouri. Next, Phil and Claire decide that this many kids in one house is too much and ask for one of the Dunphy kids to move out. As a result, they all do. Phil and Claire end up going on a cross-country road trip with the RV Phil had received from his late father. Finally, Gloria and Jay swap roles and Jay becomes a stay-at-home father while encouraging his wife to pursue her life goals.
As for the children, Luke announces he was accepted to the University of Oregon and plans to attend the following semester. This is probably one of the most satisfying endings, as Luke appeared to not want to go to college after being turned down earlier in the show. Alex ends up getting into a romantic relationship through miscommunication with Dr. Arvin Fennerman, her former professor and Haley’s ex. The two move to Switzerland to pursue an academic research project. Manny, the youngest of the third generation, decides to explore the world on a year-long trip. Not much unfolds for the very youngest generation, but it’s safe to say the respective parents will raise them in their new environments. Fans can only cross so many fingers in hopes of these younger children coming back in the future for a reboot of Modern Family.