Fifteen years before the events of the series, Lyanna Stark and Prince Rhaegar Targaryen disappeared. House Stark treated this as an abduction and protested. In response King Aerys II Targaryen executed Lord Stark and his son Brandon. Eddard became Lord of Winterfell and joined his friend Robert Baratheon in rebellion to save Lyanna and avenge his father and brother. Although Robert was crowned king and the Targaryens were killed or exiled, Lyanna died. By A Game of Thrones, Eddard and his wife Catelyn, of House Tully, have had five children: Robb, Sansa, Arya, Bran, and Rickon. Eddard also acknowledges one illegitimate son, Jon Snow.
Throughout the series, the Starks are scattered by the events of the War of the Five Kings, and the members that are still alive are in very different situations. The fate of the House remains uncertain, as most believe that all the legitimate Stark sons are dead and Winterfell was burned by Ramsey (Snow) Bolton in A Clash of Kings.