Monday, September 16, 2013

New Book-“Island Boy” by Arnold van Beverhoudt Jr



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.

Island Boy: My Life on the Rock is available from in paperback for $24.95 or in PDF for $9.95.  It should be available for Kindle on Amazon soon.

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:

  • Introduction
  • 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
  • Appendices
  •    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.


  1. This was a beautifully written article! Another time, it would be interesting to hear more about Arnold's writing journey, how he prepared for the task of writing his memoirs, and what challenges he met along the way. Sounds like a great read!

  2. Arnold van Beverhoudt Jr.September 16, 2013 at 6:06 PM


    Thanks so much for posting your review of my book. I think you captured nicely the reasons why I wrote it. As I've gotten older, I've gotten more sentimental about the past and the good times that I had while growing up on St. Thomas.

    The book itself came together just recently within a 2-month period of "every day" intense writing into the late hours. But I had actually put together the two longest chapters some time ago. The "Career Notebook" was written in the weeks before I retired, under less than positive vibes from my big boss in Washington. I ended up sending it out with a goodbye email to "all employees" just before I left the office for the last time. Was I being vindictive? Maybe. I just felt like I wanted to have the last word. ;-)

    The "Heroes and Idols" chapter was written earlier this year. It started out as a tribute to my musical idols, The Ventures, and grew from there. The original version had much more bibliographical material about the idols, but I figured that would have been too much in this setting and settled with writing more about why they were heroes and idols to me.

    I was lucky, in putting the whole package together, that I was a technical writer because of my career as an auditor who had to write many reports over the years explaining the findings of our audits of government agencies and making a case for why changes in policies and procedures, local laws, etc. should be made to result in more efficient government. My wife and daughter were my proofreaders, and my daughter, who's a website designer, put together the great cover with the initial inspiration from her husband, who's also a talented illustrator.

    As for putting the book itself together, it was a case of many late nights with WordPerfect (I HATE MS Word!), getting it properly formatted and inserting the photos in the appropriate places. Once I had something I was satisfied with, it was just a click in WordPerfect to convert the document into a PDF file.

  3. Arnold van Beverhoudt Jr.September 16, 2013 at 6:07 PM

    The next step was to log on to and go through their step-by-step self publishing app. They begin by asking you a few questions like -- what type of book do you want - hardcover or paperback? Do you want the interior to have color or just B&W (this makes a big difference in the final cost per book). What page size do you want, and so on. Then you get to set your selling price based on the projected cost to produce each book. After that, you upload your PDF file (or you can upload an MS Word DOC or XDOC file), set up your cover either using their templates or uploading your cover art in PDF or JPG format. When you have everything ready, they make you buy (at about 1/2 price) a copy of the book as a proof/review copy. After you've looked it over, you either go back and make any necessary corrections or approve the book. That's it.

    If you're satisfied selling only through, there's absolutely no upfront cost to getting your book published. If you want to have it distributed widely, through and other national and international booksellers, there's a $75 distribution fee, which I think is a bargain! Your book will be available on immediately after you approve it, but it takes about 6-8 weeks before any distribution through and other sites become active. That's the stage I'm in now ... waiting for my book to show up on

    One word of warning ... although the PDF format in which publishes ebooks is generally compatible with all e-readers (including Kindle), it is not the same as the "native" Kindle format. To have your book published in "native" Kindle, you have to do that through amazon's own publishing process, which works pretty much like lulu's, except that the manuscript has to be formatted according to very specific requirements so that it can work with the Kindle feature of letting you change font sizes to your personal preference. Amazon has a PDF file with the formatting requirements, which you can download free. It's pretty daunting and I'm still unsure if it's worth the time and effort for my book because it has so many photos that it's going to be a nightmare to reformat. I think that the "native" Kindle format is better suited to novels and other written material with a minimum of illustrations.

    I hope these "off the top of my head" comments help you and Sophie.