Genealogists tend to live in the past. A very distant past. Few of them take the time, or have the interest, to document their own lives. After all, our lives are recent. There is no mystery. Besides, our lives aren’t interesting unless we are movers and shakers, captains of industry or politicians. Somehow we feel that the life of anyone from the 18th century, no matter how dull, is far more interesting than our own.
Well, one day, the 2013 will be “long ago” and our descendants (avid genealogists, of course) will be building their family history. Of course, they will have all of our wonderful research to build on, but it will suddenly end with us. How will they find out about us? Can you think of a better gift to leave them than a detailed account of our lives? About when and where we lived? What we liked and disliked, our hopes and dreams? About how we were affected by the events of our times? What would you give to find such an account of one of your ancestors?
One of my long-time readers, and a distant cousin, Arnold E. van Beverhoudt Jr. has gone through the trouble of doing just that. He has just written the story of his life, growing up and working on St. Thomas from 1950 to present. His book, Island Boy: My Life on the Rock, is a highly readable account of his experiences, both personally and professionally, on over half a century on “The Rock”.
In his introduction, Arnold talks about why he wrote this book, and why he chose to publish it:
“Some might think it is somewhat egotistical that I'm writing my life story. After all, why would anyone be interested in reading it? I guess in a way, that's true. However, I'm writing this mainly for my daughter, granddaughter, and their future descendants. It wasn't until very recently that I became interested in family history and, by that time, my grandparents, my father, and most of my aunts and uncles had already passed away. My wife, Helena Elvira Perkins, is in the same situation because her parents and other ancestors are also now gone. Unfortunately, we didn't think of asking them about their life stories when they were alive and now it's too late. Hopefully, this biography will serve that purpose and, at the same time, be of interest to anyone who has ever lived on St. Thomas.” – Arnold van Beverhoudt, Jr., Island Boy: My Life on the Rock
This book will be a true treasure for his family, but it also sheds a light on what life was like, at least for one man, on St Thomas during the latter half of the 20th century. What it was like being a child, going to school, dating. What it was like working for the Government. Local politics. Corruption. Family life. Retirement. Along with his narrative, it is heavily illustrated with photographs of people, places, buildings, and objects.
Through the pages of the book, Arnold shares not only his history, but also his personality. Through his conversational style and his treatment of his interests (such as his obsession with Star Trek and the music of The Ventures), you get to know Arnold as a person. His hopes and dreams while on The Rock and how his life changed. This is truly a personal work.
Of interest to genealogists and family historians, the book includes 3 appendices, one of which is a set of descendancies of his and his wife’s two main family lines: van Beverhoudt, Benvenuti, Perkins, and Garcia. I’m proud to have contributed to one of them.
I’m looking forward to reading this book in detail and getting to know my distant cousin better. And maybe, I’ll get motivated to leave my descendants such a gift.
You can read more about Arnold and the book in this article from the September 13, 2013 St Thomas Source online.
Island Boy: My Life on the Rock:
- Chapter 1 - Island Family Tree
- Chapter 2 - Childhood Homes
- Chapter 3 - School Days
- Chapter 4 - Heroes and Idols
- Chapter 5 - College Years
- Chapter 6 - Career Notebook
- Chapter 7 - Wedding Bells
- Chapter 8 - Family Life
- Chapter 9 - Storm Warnings
- Chapter 10 - Vacation Time
- Chapter 11 - Spotlight on Selene
- Chapter 12 - The Golden Years
- 1 - Choices & Parallel Universes
- 2 - Ancestral Family Trees
- 3 - About the Author
Arnold E. van Beverhoudt Jr. is my 4th cousin, once removed. My 4th great grandparents from St Croix, Johannes van Beverhoudt, CZ and Amey McNobney are his 3rd great grandparents in the van Beverhoudt line.