What do Norma Shearer, Westmount, and the Oscars have in common? They were all mentioned in a Montreal Gazette article about tonight’s Oscars. And here is why.
At the third Academy Awards, in 1930, Westmount talent made history when Norma Shearer and her brother Douglas Shearer both took home awards. Norma Shearer won Best Actress for her portrayal of an unfaithful wife in The Divorcee. Her brother, Douglas Shearer, won Best Sound Recording for The Big House. This was the first time a brother and sister took home an Oscar.
Reading the article, I was surprised to learn the Shearers were born in Westmount. They grew up in a luxurious house on Grosvenor Avenue. When the family’s construction business crashed in 1919, the ensuing poverty propelled the siblings to fame and fortune.
Curious to find out if their house still stood, and since the address was not mentioned in the article, I put on my genealogist thinking cap to track them down.
When I looked at the 1911 Canada census, I discovered that the Shearer family lived at 507 Grosvenor Avenue. If the street numbers are the same today, the Google StreetView image of their house is readily available.
Then, while Googling Shearer and Westmount, I came upon the book, A View of Their Own: The Story of Westmount, written by Aline Gubbay in 1998. The book contains a useful index along with many photos, illustrations, and maps. If your ancestors lived in Westmount, attended church or school there, or played sports in the area, or even if they didn’t, the book is worth a read. References to the Shearer family appear on pages 59 and 60. A link to the book is available on the City of Westmount’s website.
I also looked up Norma Shearer’s baptism record on Ancestry and other family records, and so on.
Now that I have devoted part of my day, tracking down the history of a movie star with whom I have absolutely no relation, it is time to regain my focus on my own family history.