Meet the GeneLady

Small photo of GeneLady

Hello. My name is Ola Heska and I am the GeneLady. I grew up in Poland where in 1988 I received my Master's Degree in Russian Philology from Lodz University. My coursework consisted of the study of the Russian language, history, and culture, as well as courses in Latin, Greek, Old Church Slavonic, and other subjects. My college program included a semester of study in Moscow. After graduating from college I immigrated to the US.

When I was in the 8th grade I watched the movie "Roots" and was fascinated with the fact that it was possible to research arrival information of one's ancestors. Little did I know that many years later I myself would be able to search for a member of my own family. The movie inspired me to create my "mini" family tree. I asked my grandparents for some information, and filled my tree with cousins, aunts, and uncles. That seemed like such an achievement that I didn't even think of asking my grandparents for more - their grandparents' names and approximate dates. I keep laughing at myself now that being so young and unexperienced, I didn't even think of gathering more information. While constructing my family tree I learned that one of my great-grandmothers emigrated to the United States. This was my introduction to genealogy.

I didn't do anything else until I moved to the Chicago area in the year 2000 and I finally visited an LDS Family History Center. It started with ordering one microfilm and the rest was history. I was hooked. It has been my dream to find great-grandma and after a while I managed to not only find her but many generations and other branches of my family. In the process, I found distant relatives in Poland and a cousin who lives only 50 miles away, in Chicago.

Not long after I started my regular research visits at the Naperville Family History Center and occasionally helped others with deciphering Polish and Russian records, I was asked to join the volunteer staff. It took a few years but I finally did it. I have enjoyed helping others in their quest. More and more people requested my help in translating not only vital records but other documents as well. Some others decided to leave the fun part (i.e. research) for me to do. Gradually, translation and genealogy research became my job which I enjoy so much.

In addition to "for pay" translation and research, I volunteer at the Family History Center in Naperville, IL. I am a member of the PGSA (Polish Genealogical Society of America) and volunteer as a translator during the Society's annual conference. I travel in the Chicago area giving lectures and presentations on Polish genealogy. Recently, I got involved in indexing records for Roman Catholic parishes in Warsaw and have enjoyed doing this type of volunteer work.

I also work as the Treasurer for St. Faustina Polish School at Lombard, one of the Chicago area Saturday Polish schools. Our school is one of the largest Polish schools in the US with almost 1,000 children studying the Polish language, history, and geography.

If you need any help researching your roots, or translating records which you found, please contact me and let me know how I can help you.