1936 letter, Ennis, Co. Clare, to Butte, Montana

1936 letter, Ennis, Co. Clare,
to Butte, Montana1

In March of 1936, Mr. William McGrath of Butte, Montana, received a letter from Ennis, County Clare, Ireland. It was addressed to him c/o the Post Office, and there was a stamped note on the envelope that said "Second Notice." What can we learn about Mr McGrath? Was he from County Clare?

I found two men by that name in Butte, Montana, in that time period. The first was an accountant, born about 1865 in the Irish Free State. In 1930 he was living with his wife Lottie and son Francis at 415 West Galene Street. He owned the home. I didn't find him in 1940.2

The second was a single man born about 1890, also in the Irish Free State. In 1940 he was a lodger in the household of Evelyn Krekula at 240 East Broadway. He was working in a copper mine and had lived in Butte in 1935. I didn't find him in 1930.3

Of the two, I decided that the addressee on the envelope—if it was either man—was more likely the second. Living in a boarding house, he would probably have more reason to leave his mail at the post office to be called for.

It looks like William passed away in March of 1955. On the seventh of that month, a copper miner named William McGrath died at the Midway Bar, 118 E Broadway St, Butte, just down the street from the rooming house. He had a history of cardio-vascular problems, but the exact cause of death was unknown. His date and place of birth were June 18, 1890, in Ireland, but where his parents' names should have appeared on the form it just said "no record." William was single when he died. He was buried March 11, 1890, in Holy Cross Cemetery, Butte. The funeral director was F.X. Dolan, of Daly Shea Co., Butte, Montana.4

I found a reference to one more record for this man that might shed some light on where he was from, but the actual record is not on line. The United States Index to Alien Case Files, 1940-2003, database at familysearch.org mentions a William McGrath born June 18, 1890.5 A few clicks and a search took me to this page Alien Case File for William Mcgrath that told me that "This file consists of an alien case file for William Mcgrath. Date of birth is listed as 06/18/1890." To order copies of the file, a person would need:
the alien name: William Mcgrath
the Alien Registration Number: A2058422
the National Archives Identifier: 5650451
the box number: 86
and the accession number: 085-06-0637
There is contact information on that page, and even more information at Alien Files (A-Files) at the National Archives at Kansas City.

With a lot of help from my friends

At this point, I thought I had done all that I could and I put this article online. A few days later, I thought I would look for a County Clare genealogy group on Facebook. I found the IGP's County Clare Ireland Genealogy Group and posted a short query at https://www.facebook.com/groups/countyclare/permalink/1795320817205701/. Within a couple of hours they found for Mr McGrath 1) the civil registration of his birth, 2) the transcription of his baptism, 3) his 1901 and 1911 censuses with his parents, and 4) his declaration of intention to become a US citizen. Here is a brief summary of what they found:

On September 28, 1939, William Francis McGrath, of Butte, Montana, declared his intention to become a US citizen. He had been born in Ennis, Ireland, on June 18, 1890. The civil registrations for that date record his birth in the Borheen, a section of Ennis, son of James McGrath and Margaret (Penn) McGrath. He was baptized two days later in Ennis Parish. In 1901 he was living in the Borheen, Ennis, with his parents, his father's father, Maurice, and two younger brothers, Michael and James. In 1911, the two younger siblings were not in the household.6


So, after a rocky start, we established that William McGrath, the addressee of the envelope, was from County Clare. I suppose there might have been a more direct route from one end of this "puzzle" to the other, but we got there eventually. It might have helped to have access to ancestry.com. Also to have been more familiar with the available Co. Clare resources. And it really would have helped if I had remembered the civil registrations were on line. But I'm a bit out of practice. Thanks again to everyone at the IGP County Clare Ireland Genealogy Group at Facebook. I hope to put this information into the Family Trees > Other Families section of this site soon.

Continued in Margaret (Penn) Keane McGrath, of Ennis, County Clare, Ireland.

©Ed Hamilton
January 15, 2018


^1. The image of the envelope to William McGrath is used by permission of the Jim Forte Postal History site and can be found on this page of the site, unless it has been sold. I am not connected with the site.

^2. "United States Census, 1930," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:XC9S-MTT : accessed 11 January 2018), Wm Mcgrath, Butte, Silver Bow, Montana, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) ED 36, sheet 1B, line 54, family 18, NARA microfilm publication T626 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2002), roll 1262; FHL microfilm 2,340,997.

^3. "United States Census, 1940," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:VBQ8-XMB : accessed 30 December 2017), William Mcgrath in household of Evelyn Krekula, Ward 1, Butte, Election Precinct 11, Silver Bow, Montana, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 47-9, sheet 13A, line 3, family 282, Sixteenth Census of the United States, 1940, NARA digital publication T627. Records of the Bureau of the Census, 1790 - 2007, RG 29. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2012, roll 2230.

^4. "Montana, County Births and Deaths, 1840-2004," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QKNR-X7FH : 4 August 2017), William F Mcgrath, 07 Mar 1955; citing Death, Butte, Silver Bow, Montana, United States, various county recorder offices; FHL microfilm 2,312,134.

^5. "United States Index to Alien Case Files, 1940-2003," database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QK8J-2PH6 : 28 July 2015), William Mcgrath, ; citing Immigration, Alien Registration Number 2058422, "Index to Alien Case Files at the National Archives at Kansas City, ca. 1975 - 2012," NAID 5821836, Records of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, 2003 - 2004, RG 566, National Archives at Kansas City.

^6. Irish Civil Registrations at https://civilrecords.irishgenealogy.ie; Ennis Parish baptism transcriptions at http://www.ennisparish.com/genealogy/; the 1901 and 1911 censuses at http://www.census.nationalarchives.ie/search/; and the image of William McGrath's declaration of intention posted at Post at Co Clare Genealogy on Facebook re William McGrath.

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