|Date of Birth||January 21, 1900|
|Place of Birth||District of Rainy River, Ontario|
|Next of Kin||Mrs. Mary Godin, Rainy River, Ontario|
|Trade / Calling||Farmer|
|Service Record||Link to Service Record|
|Force||Canadian Expeditionary Force|
|Enlisted / Conscripted||Enlisted|
|Place of Enlistment||Rainy River, Ontario|
|Address at Enlistment||Rainy River, Ontario|
|Date of Enlistment||January 29, 1916|
|Age at Enlistment||16|
|Theatre of Service||Canada|
|Prisoner of War||No|
|Date of Death||November 23, 1985|
|Age at Death||85|
|Buried At||Riverview Cemetery, Fort Frances, Ontario|
Birth date and location: Norbert Joseph Godin’s birth was recorded on January 21, 1900 in the District of Rainy River, Ontario, and his baptism on March 2, 1900 in Pinewood, Parish of Notre Dame du Chemin, in this same district. Yet, he is also recorded in the township of Keewatin; is living in Keewatin in 1901; cited the town of Rainy River as his birthplace on his attestation papers; then changed his birthplace after the Great War to Spooner, a village in Minnesota. Although there are different birth dates and locations in various records, all refer to the same person.
Pinewood is located along Rainy Lake and lies near the border between Ontario and the Unites States. This waterway and the border crossing at Fort Frances and International Falls figure prominently in the Godin family for the next several years as different members worked, fished and or lived full time or temporarily in small towns in Minnesota.
Norbert’s parents were Joseph Norbert Godin and Mary (Morrisseau). Joseph was born in Trois-Rivières, Québec in 1850. He ventured west making good use of his skills working on lakes and rivers. Initial research suggests his family is descended from, or connected to, the Acadians of Nova Scotia, who remained in that province during the Expulsion between 1755 and 1764. Although it is unclear where Mary was born, it appears her birth was in the area of Kenora and Keewatin, Ontario. Additional research suggests she is Metisse, descended from men out of Quebec, who were with the fur trade. Her surname is sometimes interchanged between Morrisson and Morriseau.
According to an undated letter on ancestry.ca from the Secretary of the Notre Dame Parish of the Oblate Brothers, Kenora, Norbert’s parents were married in Kenora by Reverend Father Albert Lacombe. This would have been near the time Father Lacombe became Vicar of St. Boniface and just a few years before he moved further west and became a prominent figure in the history of Alberta.
Early life: After reviewing several census records and other documents related to the Godin family, it appears Joseph and Mary had the following children between 1878 and 1900, all in Keewatin, Ontario: Thomas Joseph, Marguerite Sophie, Josephine Isabel, Arthur ‘Phillipe’, Joseph ‘George’, Michel, Mary, and Norbert Joseph (nickname “Norrie”). There was also a son, Joseph Xavier, who was born and died in 1883. Several of Norbert’s siblings are recorded as being baptized in the Roman Catholic Church in Kenora. Records are available for most of them.
In the 1901 Census, the family was still living in Keewatin. The eldest son, Thomas, is married with a family and living in Keewatin. He is employed as a contractor. Marguerite and Josephine are also no longer living with their parents.
By the time of the 1911, some family members had moved to the town of Rainy River. Joseph was now a Master Mariner and he and Mary had the following family living with them: George (age 20) working as a labourer; Michael /Michel (age 18, employed as a sailor); Norbert (age 12); Mary (age 6); and, daughter, Josephine and her husband, James McLean, and their children, Isabella (age 7) and Edward (age 1). Prior to enlisting, Norrie had been working as a farmer in Rainy River.
War experience: Private Norbert Godin enlisted in the town of Rainy River on January 29, 1916 with the 141st Overseas Battalion, out of Fort Frances, Ontario. His Regimental Number was 820191. He stated his birth as January 22, 1899 in Rainy River. Norbert was described as 5 feet 5 inches with a dark complexion, grey eyes and black hair. He followed the Roman Catholic faith and named his mother as his next of kin. His Medical Examination, at the time, indicated Norrie had two bones in his spine that were prominent; thus, the Physician declared Norbert medically fit to serve as a Bugler, but not as an active soldier.
Norbert’s file contains only initial enlistment information and medical forms indicating he was diagnosed with rheumatism, and then Pott’s Disease. This is a form of tuberculosis that forms on the spine creating dislocation of vertebrae and arthritis. This condition resulted in Norbert being discharged in Port Arthur, on August 15, 1916, as medically unfit and “unlikely to become efficient”. It is not known if Norrie carried out any training or became a bugler over the 6 ½ months he was in the military; however, he was in uniform long enough to have his photo taken with his father and his two brothers, who had also enlisted and were in uniform, at the time.
Family Members Who Also Served: Norbert’s brothers, Phillipe and George, enlisted to serve in the Great War. Their stories are also recorded in the Kenora Great War Project.
Life after the war: On February 26, 1918, Norbert married Mabel Gilbertson who had been born March 30, 1902 in Bagley, Clearwater, Minnesota, United States. It is likely he met her in Minnesota as there are Border Crossing records for Norrie at International Falls, Minnesota, at this time, and over the next few years. According to the 1921 Canadian census, Norbert, Mabel and their 3-year-old son, Robert L., were living in the Atwood Township, District of Fort William and Rainy River. Norbert was employed as a labourer. He lists Ontario as his birthplace; however, in a Border Crossing document in 1921, Norbert began to use Spooner Township, Minnesota, USA, as his place of birth with his permanent Canadian address as 411 Moser Street, Fort Frances, Ontario.
Norrie appears to have worked in both Ontario and Minnesota; and, at some point, he applied for a United States Social Security Number: 475-22-7972. Then on June 10, 1942, there is a U.S. draft card in his name with his birth date and physical characteristics recorded. Fort Frances is listed as his permanent residence.
A final document referring to his connection to the U.S. is date February 1950. It is an “Application for U.S. Citizen Identification Card” stating an American birth certificate was issued to him in Minnesota. The document also indicated Norbert had a letter from Canada stating no birth registration for Norbert had been found for him in this country. He continued to use Fort Frances as his permanent residence, now on Church Street.
Mary and Norbert had four children: Robert (c1920 -1975), Joseph George (c1919-1922); Alice (1921-2005, married Tinkess) and William (Bill).
Norrie belonged to the Royal Canadian Legion, Branch 29; enjoyed curling, fishing and hunting; and, acted as a guide on Rainy Lake for many years. He also worked 15 years with the Ontario Minnesota Pulp and Paper Company in Fort Frances, prior to his retirement.
Date of death and burial location: Norbert passed away on November 23, 1985, in Fort Frances. His death was reported to the U.S. Consulate in Canada. Mabel died May 3rd, 1981, also in Fort Frances. Their obituaries are in the Fort Frances Press. Son, Robert (Bob), died in 1975. Also, a grandson, Lewis Morrin, passed away in 1980. Their child Joseph George who died in 1922 is not listed in their obituaries. Norrie was survived by his children, Alice and William, 11 grandchildren, 15 great grandchildren and several nieces and nephews. He was the last surviving member of the Godin family. Norrie and Mary are buried in Riverview Cemetery, Fort Frances.
Prepared by Susan [Hillman] Brazeau
Fort Frances Museum: photographs, Military record, Obituaries
Fort Frances Press: Obituaries
Library and Archives Canada: First World War Personnel Record