In the early 12th century, Saint-Omer was an important port in western Flanders. However silting gradually cut it off from the North Sea, resulting in the construction of a canal to the new coast at what is now Gravelines. The name is derived from the Dutch Gravenenga, meaning Count's Canal. The new town became heavily fortified as it guarded the western borders of Spanish territory in Flanders.
There was a famous Meeting at Gravelines in 1520, between the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V and King Henry VIII of England. There were also two battles fought nearby, the first was a land battle in 1558 resulting in a victory by Spanish forces of Lamoral, Count of Egmont over the French under Marshal Paul des Thermes. The second was a naval attack using fire ships in 1588 launched by the Royal Navy under Lord Howard against the Spanish Armada at anchor.
There is a plaza in Montreal dedicated to Urbain, who became a syndic in Montreal. There is also a stetch of highway near Biloxi dedicated to one of his grandsons, who became an adventureur, traveling from Canada up and down the Mississippi, and settling near the Gulf Coast.
One famous family member is Thomas Gravelines, the top rated AAA midget goalie in the 2005/2006 hockey season in Canada, who won the all-Ontario's with the Sault North Stars in Waterloo, Ontario.
Another famous family member is Joseph Gravelines who was an Arikara interpretor for the Lewis and Clark expeditions across the United States in the 18th Century.
The family name has now spread all over Canada (especially Quebec) and the United States.
Related names: Boudreau, Graveline, Gravelines, Gravelin, Gravlin, Gravolin.