Gonzales records archivist turns 90

Greg Fischer Editor-in-chief
Author and Archivist Roland Gravois Sr. (seated) next to his wife Carmen celebrates his birthday with his family and friends on Saturday.

Roland Anthony Gravois Sr. has lived a nice, long life. Born in Vacherie, La, he now resides in the retirement subdivision of Pelican Point with his wife.

The disabled WWII Veteran once spent nine months straight in the hospital for injuries suffered in Okinawa. He gives his time these days to the Catholic Church in Baton Rouge, where he looks at handwritten baptismal records and marriage records and puts them into digital form.

The LSU grad, who worked with IBM before it was a computer company, said he cannot speak French, or Spanish or Latin but he can translate the records written in these languages on paper.

His son Roland, Jr said he thinks it's the records that keeps him going. He held some examples on display at the door of the Pelican Point banquet room on Saturday, May 13, 2017.

"He's more like an archivist," Gravois, Jr. said. "If you want to find out about your family 300 years ago, you probably have to go to the church record. I bet he's one of the better church historians in the area."

Additionally, Gravois, Sr. has in fact written three books that are available in the Ascension Parish Library: La Famille Gravois, les Trois Cents Annees Passees in 1999; de Generes and Allied Familles in 2013 (my wife's family) and a updated book in 2016, L'histoire et la genealogie de la famille Gravois. These are enormous volumes of family history. Thick as the bible.

It is very interesting to see how many family names are tied into he and his wife's family.

Gravois, Sr. said his mother used to have him write the bible as a child. He said his interest in writing came when he realized that Napoleonville at some point did not have a school. He noticed that in the 30s at a wedding, not one person in the wedding party could sign their name with anything but an X. He seemed determined to educate himself and others by reading and writing.

Gravois and his wife Carmen graduated college in 1950 from LSU and were married in New Orleans.

He had advice for young people. He said that the problem with young people these days is that they don't want to live with their decisions.

"The world has gotten so big and it changed so much," Gravois Sr., said. "It's not the same anymore. But it's been wonderful."