Besarion was the paternal grandson of Zaza Jughashvili from the village of Geri, north of Gori. In the mid-19th century, Zaza took part in a peasant uprising in Ananuri, a small county seat near Ger on the Aragvi River. The uprising was crushed by Imperial soldiers, and Zaza was captured along with nine other rebels. Zaza escaped and hid in Gori, where he was recaptured and remanded as a serf to Prince Eristavi. He became involved in another uprising on the Eristavi estate. It is unknown who his wife was, or the exact number of children he sired. Vano Jughashvili, Besarion's father, tended the vineyards of Georgian Prince Badur Machabeli in the village of Didi Lilo (დიდი ლილო).
According to the Arsoshvili family (Jughashvili's relatives and longtime residents of Didi Lilo), Jughashvili (nicknamed "Beso") couldn't afford paying a three-ruble tax and had to move to Gori in search of employment. There, he found a job working for a shoemaker named Osepa Baramov.
Besarion married Ekaterine Geladze on 29 May 1872 in the evening at the Uspensky Church. Their first child, a boy named Mikheil, was born on 26 February 1875 but died two months later. Their second child, a boy named Giorgi, was born on 5 January 1877 and died of measles on 1 July 1877. Their third child, a boy named Ioseb, was born on 18 December 1878 and survived. Ioseb would later change his surname to Stalin and rule the Soviet Union.
In 1874, Besarion opened up his own workshop. It was successful at first, but Besarion's productivity declined as he succumbed to alcoholism. He had begun drinking after the death of his first child. Some of his customers preferred to pay him with wine in lieu of money, which didn't help. Eventually, he stopped working altogether, and his workshop was sustained only by the efforts of his employees. He also became violently abusive to his family, forcing them to move to separate accommodations. Ekaterine was forced to take odd jobs and handouts from friends to make up for their lost income.