Octave Goulet (1883-1946) the census-eluding fireman

25 Jun

Octave was born in Jul 1883. He was the last known child of my ancestor David Goulet and Philomene Nadeau. His godfather was my great-great-grand dad himself, Joseph Camille Goulet and Luce Paradis, Camille’s mother-in-law. When Octave was about nine years old, his parents David & Philomene moved south to Berlin, New Hampshire to reside with their older son Etienne. He appeared in the 1891 Canada Census in his father’s household but after they left, he probably resided with his older brother Camille.

When I first started tracking down all of David and Philomene’s children in New Hampshire, I had left Octave on the proverbial pile on the desk: in fact I did not notice that he was there at all until I reached the end of the line. What followed was an epic couple of months of research, racking my brain and probably testing every trick in the book in online genealogical databases. But let’s go back a bit….

I found mention of an Octave Goulet in the 1903 Berlin city directory, I made note of the source and attempted to retrace his steps from Quebec to Berlin. First, I had to make sure that Octave did not stay back home after all so I carefully trawled through all the death registers of his home parish for 15 years as well as censuses. He appeared to have gone south like the rest of the family. The hard part began because that 1903 directory record gave me no further indication that he was the one I was looking for. I searched some more and found a World War I Draft registration card in 1918 where he stated his location as Grafton, New Hampshire.

U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 for Octaus Goulette. Viewable with an Ancestry.com subscription

U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 for Octaus Goulette. Viewable with an Ancestry.com subscription

My only indications that I was on the right track was that the date of birth corresponded (with a one year gap) and that he gave his nearest relative as Pierre (Peter) Goulet, his older brother. I am still trying to decipher the “permanent home address” field on the certificate. I can only deduce from the record he worked in Bebee River as a lumber salesman for the Woodstock Lumber Co.

In 1919 he arrived in Newport, Vermont, stating being invited by the Woodstock Lumber Co. Departure contact, Joseph Goulet, his older brother in St-Jean Chrysostome, Levis region in Quebec and his family contact in the US as his brother Pierre (Peter) Goulet.

Border Crossing record for Octave Goulet in Newport, Vermont in 1919.

Border Crossing record for Octave Goulet in Newport, Vermont in 1919.

His occupation is still unreadable on the record but at least I had now two documents to confirm that he was in the US from 1897 to 1919.

I found no trace of Octave in any US Census from 1900 to 1930. I tried every trick and wildcards in New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont.  But I had missed a crucial piece of information: in 1933 his older brother Jean (John) Goulette died and on his newspaper obituary I found a another trail.

John Goulette's obituary in 1933.

John Goulette’s obituary in 1933.

“Octave Goullette of Leominster, Mass.” I was back on the trail again. I re-ran my searches in the US Census collection now including Massachusetts but I still did not find Octave.  However I managed to prove the fact that he was indeed in Massachusetts at the time; I found him in several city directories for the city of Fitchburg, MA from 1930 to 1935. Yet I had another gap in my research because Octave disappeared from the Fitchburg directories until 1940-1941.

In 1942,Octave registered in the WW2 Military draft, otherwise known as the Old Man’s Draft. He stated his residence at 33 Maple St., West Lebanon, NH, family contact his brother Pierre (Peter) Goulet, residing at 486 Champlain St. So he was living in West Lebanon and Fitchburg at the same time?

I went back to the 1940 US Census, using the address given above and managed to locate the boarding house of Mary E Pulos, widow, West Lebanon. She had only one lodger and as the census clerk started to write his name down, Joseph O Goulet, he did not finish. He stroke the entry and this note : “census taken in Mass”. There is no trace of him in the 1940 US Census in Fitchburg or Leominster. In the Fitchburg directories, Octave is a boiler-maker and a fireman until 1941, on his entry residing at 231 Myrtle ave we find : “rem to West Lebanon”. So that’s now three decades of evading censuses.

Octave’s older brother Pierre (Peter) died during the year 1942 and Octave, who had never (apparently) married, wed his brother’s widow Elizabeth (Lizzie) Deschamplain at 60 years old. They got married 19 September 1942 in White River Junction, Vermont. On the marriage index, there is evidence of a blood test done and Octave states his occupation as “railroad”. He passed away in 1946.

Octave Goulet's newspaper obituary in 1946.

Octave Goulet’s newspaper obituary in 1946.

I still have many questions regarding Octave: how (or why) did he manage to evade so many censuses when he was in fact working in an industry that was widely regarded as the backbone of the eastern Atlantic, where many companies like the Brown Corporation, paper mills and railroad industries had dwellings for their employees? I located the workers’ houses in Sandwich, NH that belonged to the Woodstock Lumber Co during the 1920’s but still Octave was missing. Maybe his early trade as a lumber salesman made him travel a lot and he simply wasn’t there when the census clerks showed up. I also wonder about his job for the Boston and Maine Railroad. I managed to track down the only online records of employees and carefully went through each roster. Since he was apparently a fireman from 1930 to 1946, I was hoping I would find a trace of him but I was (and still am out of luck).

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2 Responses to “Octave Goulet (1883-1946) the census-eluding fireman”

  1. chmjr2 June 25, 2013 at 11:12 pm #

    I also have relatives who seem to hide from the census. It makes for long research sessions. The one trick that works for me is trying different spelling of the surnames. I have found my name Moore listed as Moon way too many times. Then my Dakin line has shown up as Bacon. Keep trying and good luck.

    • Marylene June 26, 2013 at 5:57 am #

      I tried several surname variants as well, between Goulet, Goulette, Goulais, etc. That 1940 US Census result was indexed under “Joseph O Grant”, I managed to decipher the surname by looking at the original image. I also used Steve Morse’s unified Census ED Finder : http://stevemorse.org/census/unified.html? It saved me a lot of time on ancestry.com and I was able to identify specific wards and neighborhoods. Still needed the patience to trawl through 25-35 pages of censuses though.

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