The Bates family

You may have heard of the Duggar family who starred in the show ‘19 Kids and Counting’ on TLC but there is another enormous family that also has their own show.

‘Bringing up Bates’ follows the lives of Kelly Jo and Gil Bates and their 19 kids. Having 21 people in a family makes for a lot of fun and interesting episodes. Just seeing how the family functions day to day is fascinating. The show documents their everyday lives in addition to exciting celebrations such as weddings and courtships. If you don’t know what a courtship is, you will after reading this. This article will tell you all the interesting facts you did not know about the Bates.

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The Duggars are a religious family headed by Michelle and Jim-Bob Duggar who have a total of 19 kids! They had major success with their TLC reality showed until it was inevitably cancelled due to a controversy with their eldest son Josh. A spinoff entitled Jill and Jessa: Counting on, which follows daughters Jill and Jessa who are newlyweds, has also been extremely successful.

A family that was often featured on ‘19 Kids and Counting’ was the Bates family who started their own show in January 2015. They have had a ton of success with their show which airs on Up TV. The show, aptly titled ‘Bringing up Bates’, follows the Bates family and their own 19 kids. Similar to the Duggar family, The Bates are devout Christians and as such, it is a large part of their lives. It even affects the way they date, which we will get into later.

‘Bringing up Bates’ follows the lives of Kelly Jo and Gil Bates and their 19 kids. Having 21 people in a family makes for a lot of fun and interesting episodes. Just seeing how the family functions day to day is fascinating. The show documents their everyday lives in addition to exciting celebrations such as weddings and courtships. If you don’t know what a courtship is, you will after reading this. This article will tell you all the interesting facts you did not know about the Bates family.

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Before they had their own show

Before the Bates’ had their own reality show, the Bates sometimes popped up on the Duggar’s show, 19 Kids and Counting. The two families were and still are very close friends as they have a lot in common. Besides having the same number of children, the two families also share a strong Christian faith and are both involved in ministry activities. The families often spend time with each other and have even gone camping together.

Kelly Jo and Gil Bates also have 19 children just like the Duggar family. Their family consists of 9 boys and 10 girls. Unlike the Duggars, however, there are no sets of multiples. Thats a lot of pregnancies! Kelly Jo and Gil got married in 1987 when they were 21 and 22 respectively. They had all their children between 1988 and 2012 with the oldest being 28 and the youngest being 5. Talk about being productive.


Gil Bates is a pastor and Bible Baptist Church in East Tennessee. The family also earns a living through their tree cutting service fittingly named Bates tree Service. Although dangerous, this is a good job for Gil as it pays more the quicker the job is finished. This allows him to spend more time with his giant brood. Kelly Jo has the difficult task of taking care of all of the kids and running a household.

They are penny pinchers

Obviously having so many kids could get very expensive very quickly. As a result, the family is known for being extremely frugal. Gil Bates said in an interview, “We try our best to live as cheap as we can. I’m a real penny pincher. I’m probably worse than a penny pincher. We try not to buy stuff that’s full price. We wait till it goes on sale, and if it’s not a necessity, we try not to buy it unless it’s something we really need.”

They didn’t have healthcare

Although the family is making money from their reality show, the amount of mouths they have to feed could be draining on any family. As a result of trying to save money, it has been reported that the family did not even have health care until 2012! Though they seem to have enough to raise their family well and live a middle-class life, we can imagine how difficult is must be to feed and clothe all of those kids.

Their daughter is also frugal

22 year old Bates daughter, Alyssa, who is married with two children, has also spoken about her finances. Alyssa commented on her husband’s (John) family, “I definitely think that a lot of people get the idea that just because, you know, his [John’s] dad’s a congressman that, you know, we just make tons of money and I’m like, ‘No, everything we make, we work hard for.'” Don’t judge a book by its cover! You never know what financial situation someone is in.

Lawson Bates

Lawson Bates, who is a favorite of many ‘Bringing up Bates’ fans, is a talented country music singer in addition to being a small business owner. He is the owner of Lawson’s Lawn Care and he is also planning on taking his music talents on the road by going on tour. Although Jinger is now married to Jeremy Vuolo, who is a former Major League soccer player, it was once reported that she was courting Lawson Bates.


Just like the Duggar family, the Bates children are all homeschooled. Both families chose to use ATI (Advanced Training Institute International) homeschooling curriculum which puts emphasis on Christian values and God. This curriculum is not taught in American public schools and as it would be extremely expensive to send all of their kids to Christian private school, homeschooling is a great alternative. Homeschooling does many benefits, for example, Michaella even met her husband Brandon at a homeschool conference.

Unexpected surprises!

This may come as a huge surprise, but Kelly Jo and Gil thought they would only have two children! The couple met at Anderson University in South Carolina in Gil’s chemistry class where Kelly Jo was the lab assistant. Gil needed tutoring and Kelly Jo offered to help him. We guess they had a lot of chemistry! Sorry we had to. Before they became a family of 21, Kelly Jo and Gil actually thought they would only have a couple of kids. They got 17 more than they bargained for!

No pain medication

What makes Kelly Jo’s 19 births even more impressive (as if it wasn’t impressive enough) is the fact that she gave birth to 14 of them without using pain medication! We can’t even imagine how anyone could go through that many births with pain medication. In addition, she gave birth to all of her children naturally, no C-sections. That must have hurt! This is just an example of how strong Kelly Jo is and what an amazing woman and mother she is.

They are all blessings

Unfortunately, Kelly Jo has suffered four miscarriages in her fertile years. As a belief of their strong Christian faith, the couple believes that they will be reunited with their four unborn babies in heaven. They view each of their children as a blessing and have instilled strong Christian values in all of them. After her last miscarriage, Kelly Jo used hormone therapy to strengthen her uterus wall. After hormone therapy, she became pregnant with her 19th child.

Jana and Michaella

Jana Duggar and Michael (also known as Michaella) Keilan (formerly Bates) are extremely close. They are also close in age as they are only 11 days apart! Jana was the only bridesmaid at Michaella’s wedding who was not a Bates family member. Jana is the second oldest member of the Duggar clan and is the only older sibling that has not entered a public courtship. Lawson Bates, who had previously been linked to Jinger, has also be rumored to be in a courtship with Jana.

Jana on marriage

Many Duggar fans are wondering why the beautiful Jana, who is 27, remains single. Jana has admitted that it has become difficult to be single as more and more of her younger siblings are getting engaged and married. She said in an interview, “I know how it feels to wait for ‘Prince Charming’ to come along. I’m still waiting. Waiting is not always easy especially when all the married siblings are getting together and you can’t go along because you’re not part of ‘that’ group.”

Why ‘19 Kids and Counting’ got cancelled

The show, which was originally called 17 kids and counting, was cancelled in July 2015 after oldest son Josh’s scandal became front page news. It was reported that Josh allegedly inappropriately touched five girls including his sisters before the family had a reality show. After the scandal was made public, over 20 advertisers pulled their ads from the show and TLC was forced to cancel it, After the cancellation TLC started a spin off series called Jill and Jessa: Counting on, which focuses on the lives of the newlywed couples.

Kelly Jo’s mom

In season 6, one episode focused on the wedding of Kelly Jos’ mom. Kelly Jo’s stepfather had been sick for a long time and eventually passed away. Kelly Jo said of her mother, “She just went through a very sad, depressed time but in the meantime, she met a really wonderful man named Tom, and they surprised all of us and announced that they would be getting married which was exciting for us because I don’t think I’ve ever seen my mom so happy in a really really long time.”

The ball is in your court (ship)

As all Duggar a Bates fans know, when a child comes of age in these families they engage in courtships instead of dating. The devout Christians date for marriage and as such take it very seriously. Courtships require that the couple does not kiss or ‘full hug’ before marriage. They are allowed to ‘side hug’ and hold hands. Each couple’s dates have to be supervised by a chaperone to make sure there is no funny business.

Joy-Anna and Austin Forsyth

A slight ‘courting controversy’ befell Joy-Anna Duggar while the cameras were rolling. There was a bit of controversy as Austin Forsyth and Joy-Anna Duggar shared a ‘full hug’ after Austin proposed and TLC cameras caught it on tape. The couple were recently married and announced that they are expecting their first child. The couple of been accused of having a shotgun wedding as they moved up the wedding date earlier and announced the pregnancy only 3 months after they were married.

Bobby and Tori

When Tori Bates announced that she was officially in a courtship with Bobby Smith, fans were anxiously awaiting an engagement announcement. However, Tori has stated that she is waiting to finish her degree in education before the two tie the knot. Kelly Jo, however is not so sure that the couple will be able to wait. She say that older daughter Erin also said she would wait until after college but walked down the aisle the before her last semester.

The success of the show

While the show has tons of fans, many people why wonder why shows like these are so successful. The executive producer of ‘Bringing up Bates’, Matthew Hightower said on it’s success, “I think it’s because people are curious to see how it works with all of these people living together. I mean, I only have two kids and that’s enough chaos for me, so 19 of them seems ludicrous, but then you see this family together and you just can’t stop watching all of these people interacting.”

Religion isn’t the main focus

Though religion plays an important and central part in the Bates’ lives, it’s not the central focus of the show. The senior VP of reality shows at the channel Up TV, Timothy Kuryak, said, “It’s an important part of who they are but we don’t dwell on it. There is praying on the show but not a lot it. We weren’t going to not show that aspect. That would be cutting out a very important part of the family’s daily life.”

Too similar to the Duggars?

When Up TV first announced the show, many accused it of just copying the Duggar’s show. However, producers and fans say that it is a very different show and the only things in common are their faith and the number of children. Matthew Hightower said of the comparison, “Yes, there are similarities between the families, but you really can’t compare them to each other just as you can’t compare any two other families. They’re very different from each other in many, many ways, and I think that’s all that needs to be said about this.”


A common theme between both the Duggar’s and the Bates’ show are weddings! With so many kids there are bound to be tons of happy celebrations such as weddings. Five Duggar children have already tied the knot and one more is engaged. Four of the bates kids are married and three are seriously courting. We have yet to see a Bates-Duggar wedding but that that would be a great crossover episode! Bringing up Duggar anyone?

Moving away

As more of the Bates kids get married, there are fewer of them to film. When the crew started filming, the family were all together in one place and in one home. As they grow up and start their own families, it makes production more difficult as they have to film in different locations. For example, daughter Alyssa moved to Florida and Michaella to Chicago when they got married to their respective husbands. However, the crew still want them to be involved in the show.

Growing families

As more and more Bates kids get married, Kelly Jo and Gil have also welcomed more grandchildren. They have six grandchildren from three of their married children. Zach Bates who is married to Whitney has a son and a daughter. Erin Bates is married to Chad also has a son and a daughter. Alyssa Bates is married to John and has two daughters. We hope to see many more Bates grandkids as they expand their family.

Hard to keep track of

Timothy Kuryak said that when they originally started the reality show he thought that due to the sheer amount of people, it would be hard to keep up with everyone. He said, “It seems like a lot of names to remember but I think what’s really appealing is that each one of them is truly an individual and you see that as each of them is pursuing their own path – Zach is in law enforcement, Nathan is working to become a pilot, Michaella is an EMT, Lawson is a singer. It’s fantastic to watch them go after what they want.”

Health scare

In July 2017, Erin Bates and her husband Chad updated their fans on the condition of their one year-old daughter Brooklyn. Brooklyn had a high fever for a couple weeks and her finger was swelling. After doctors gave her antibiotics, her condition worsened and she had to have surgery on her finger and they realized that it was infected. The coupled informed fans that she was thankfully doing better after the surgery and thanked them all for their constant support.

Michael’s struggle with fertility

Michael Bates has been very open to fans about the challenge she and so many other women face with fertility. She wrote an emotional blog post about her struggle even made her doubt her faith in God. She wrote on her blog, “I graduated from college the spring after we married and was thrilled when my diploma arrived. Over the next few weeks, several friends announced pregnancies. I was elated for them and excited at the thought of possibly getting to babysit. As days passed, I started to wonder when I would get pregnant. Wonder turned to concern, and concern grew to worry and fear.”

Her faith is still strong

Although Michaella is still struggling with this, she has still maintained a positive attitude and strong faith. She continued on her blog, “This has been a hard subject to talk about and very painful to share with others, but I have received so much encouragement from so many who have reached out to us over the past year. We’ve received emails, letters, text, prayers, and little reminders of God’s love. Thank each of you for your words of endearment. We are truly grateful, and we are trying to learn to just rest in His plan!”

Disagreeing with the Duggars

Erin Bates Paine made headlines when she and her brother Lawson denounced the Institute in Basic Life Principles, which the Duggar family supports. They made this statement after the head of the institute, Bill Gothard, was accused of engaging in inappropriate behavior with young girls. Although Erin’s father-in-law serves on the board of directors of the institute, both she and her husband have denounced the institute and made sure their fans new they were not affiliated with them.

A Bates-Duggar wedding

Although none of the Bates have tied the knot with a Duggar yet, Erin Bates Paine thinks it has to be inevitable. Erin said, “I personally think, hey, you have 19 kids on each side. I think it’s almost inevitable somewhere down the line,” “As much as we see each other, I think there’s going to be an attractions somewhere. I don’t know where yet, but I think it’s gonna happen.” There are still a bunch of kids on each side who are too young to even think of marriage, so you never know.