The Autry’s Stephen Aron on “Who Do You Think You Are?”
If you caught last Friday’s premiere episode of “Who Do You Think You Are?” on NBC, you saw one of our own, historian Stephen Aron, as he helped Sarah Jessica Parker figure out if one of her ancestors was part of the California Gold Rush.
“You’re the relative of an archetypal American,” Aron, executive director of the Autry Institute for the Study of the American West and history professor at UCLA, told Parker. “Your family was so deeply entwined in this sort of central saga which, arguably, other than the Civil War, is the most important event in 19th-Century America.”
The movie- and TV-star traveled to her hometown of Cincinnati, OH to find out more about John S. Hodge, her ancestor. According to family lore, he died during the California Gold Rush. Parker wanted to know if he struck it rich, making her perhaps the second in her family to head West in search of fortune and fame, or if he died trying, like so many others.
This is where she met Aron, who told her more about what the Gold Rush would have represented to people of the mid-19th Century, giving Parker some context for her search.
“Here you have people back in Ohio, people like John Hodge, hearing these tales of unprecedented, immense wealth just for the taking,” Aron said. “How can anyone not want to go? Everyone wants to go.”
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