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Advice needed on how to upload my surname list (a CSV file)

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  • Advice needed on how to upload my surname list (a CSV file)

    My aim is get my ancestral surname list onto my profile using the Account Settings / Genealogy/ Surnames / Upload CSV facility – but every attempt to use this is met with a tiny error message at the bottom of the page – “Something went wrong” – and zero advice on how to ensure that “Something doesn’t go wrong”. Despite 3-4 attempts, FT-DNA help has been no help at all on this question.
    I have just today uploaded my tree of 3500 people and linked it to three family DNA results (assisted by advice from another thread). I notice that this has generated an Ancestral surname list that excludes any location information, and includes ancestors whose surname is unknown. I want to replace this with my proper list, currently in Microsoft Excel stored as a single worksheet CSV file in the following format: in row 1 cells A and B the headings SURNAME and LOCATION, and in the subsequent rows, columns A and B, the Surname and Location pairs. I will attach the CSV file if I can - no it won't let me - image inserted instead Surname list.jpg .
    As it happens I have 80 of these surname to enter selectively into three different profiles, so I do NOT want to have to enter them laboriously one by one.
    First question – on that Surnames / Upload CSV page, am I correct in interpreting that as the user sending a list to their profile on FT-DNA [and not the other way round, which I would call “Download”]?
    Second question: how can I get this working?

  • #2
    David, I replied to your other question in another thread. All I will add here is that FTDNA seems to have changed the Account Settings, including at least the Profile and Genealogy sections, in appearance and functionality, but has not finished the job. Who knows how long it's been this way? I, for one, have not added surnames in a while, and when I did there was no option to upload a .cvs file to do so. It certainly would be nice! It is tedious to add names/locations one at a time. The FTDNA Learning Center page for the Genealogy section of Account Settings (which covers adding ancestral surnames) does not mention uploading a .cvs file, much less give instructions for how to do so.

    Time to submit a Customer Service request (link at top right) to pester them about these things, it would seem! I will, and invite anyone else who finds these things annoying to join me.


    • #3
      Thanks KATM
      I have raised it by both email and chat, and made no progress. They seem to be taking much longer to answer such queries than the promised 72 hours plus a business day. Perhaps the Valentines (etc) marketing has boosted both sales and new questions and they are swamped ... and the chat room does not seem to open until at least 9:30am which is the middle of our night here in Australia.


      • #4
        Now 16 May and and the FT-DNA help has still not replied ....


        • #5
          I now have the email address - [email protected]


          • #6
            You could try contacting them by that email address, but as I recall, they discontinued using email for customer service purposes a couple of years ago, and now only use the form found at the "Customer Support" link at the top right of these pages (or you can phone them during the hours shown on that page). Let us know if you get a reply if you do email them.


            • #7

              Pretty much a horror story / catalog of frustration .... here goes: (days refer to Australia EST)
              after a number of tries, via email chat and forum, here is the email sent by the help desk [email protected]
              Sunday, 5 May 2019 " Hello David, /Thank you for contacting FTDNA.
              Can you please attach the CSV file to this email so I can try and upload the data for you?
              [name deleted to save embarrassment]
              Information Specialist

              Thu 16-May-19 I emailed (separately, addressed to that same person) 3 CSV files of surnames, extended versions/extracts of the one shown in my initial post. These are for three profiles - myself and two family members, one paternal and the other maternal side.
              It took until Tue 21-May-19 {as usual, longer than the claimed 72 hour response] for the same person to get back to me with this:
              "Hello David,
              Unfortunately, I was not able to upload the attached file to the surname list. Please try using Microsoft Word to type your information and download it to the surname page.
              Information Specialist

              As you can probably imagine, having made zero progress in several frustrating weeks towards getting the surnames working and making some proper use of the DNA matching, this response was pretty annoying to me. So Wednesday, 22 May 2019 I sent back the following, not addressed to any particular person:

              "Please appreciate this point: Family Tree DNA’s website has a PROGRAMMING FLAW that needs YOU to advise your WEBSITE DESIGNERS/MAINTENANCE TEAM to FIX!

              I did of course try your guess at a solution (which you clearly had not tried yourself!), but “UPLOAD CSV” does not accept a Microsoft Word document. How could you expect it to? – it’s supposed to be for CSV format files.

              You failed to upload my CSV files to our three profiles – demonstrating very clearly that your website button DOES NOT WORK. You proved it to yourself – so now you need to get it fixed.

              I find it very annoying, because I have been telling you all for weeks, and getting nowhere. I could go to the trouble of documenting all the various email and chat sessions aimed at getting my surnames uploaded, but I have wasted more than enough time.

              (Your surnames page does not accept an attempt to paste the contents of the word document either.)

              Until you get your act together and get your systems working, I cannot with good conscience recommend to any other person (friend or family) to test with FT-DNA, as they can get a long way further with matching by testing with

              Ignore me at your peril

              [I have of course tested with Ancestry, where I have 35,879 DNA matches at present compared with 2,857 on FT-DNA. If FT-DNA wants to compete in this market, it needs plenty of compelling reasons for people to test with them. There are some obvious ones (mt, Y, chromosome browser) but FT, you cannot ignore problems like this, or you will disappear ...]


              • #8
                I just tried download and upload and had no problem - worked perfectly, so maybe this has been fixed.

                Not exactly sure what you mean by "Microsoft Excel stored as a single worksheet CSV file". A CSV file is a text format, so make sure you can open it in Notepad.
                The surname and location are both enclosed within quotes.
                Try entering one surname and location via the FTDNA web interface, Download it, then open the "surnames.csv" file in Notepad and edit it there.
                Save the file and Upload it.

                One caution: the Uploads are additive they do not replace / edit.
                Last edited by Gecko; 24th May 2019, 08:37 AM.


                • #9
                  Following Gecko's comment I downloaded the list from one kit and uploaded it to another kit.
                  Surname Location
                  West NC, TN
                  Wadley TN
                  Tyson MS
                  Stanton GA
                  Sewell AL, GA, NC
                  Powell TX, AR, GA
                  Patterson TN, SC
                  Nelson TX, GA
                  Nash TN
                  McIntosh TX,SC, NC
                  Jones TX, GA
                  Johnson AR
                  Holden TX, TN, NC
                  Hickerson AR, TN
                  Seems like the solution was the addition of column headings.


                  • #10
                    I would attach my file but we aren't allowed to upload a file with the csv extension.


                    • #11
                      Thanks for your very helpful reply Gecko
                      None of that information is provided by FT-DNA on the website as a Help adjacent to the Upload CSV button. I have been asking since April for details of the format. I asked FT-DNA to send me a mock CSV file with sample info in just three entries - something like
                      Smith - London
                      Jones - Wales
                      Fernandez - Australia
                      so that I could mimic the format with my list - they simply ignored my request. And ignored other requests to explain what was required.

                      So I had to guess - and my guess is shown in my original post - it is, of course, a MS Excel file written in CSV format (one of the menu options). MS Word, on the other hand, has no such option to write a CSV file.
                      Yes, my Excel CSV files as sent to FT-DNA on 16 May DO open legibly in Notepad.

                      I tried your suggestion about putting something in the surname field online then downloading the CSV file (the option for which appears when you populate the surname field). I don't see any evidence of double quotes anywhere - this is what I see in the downloaded CSV file, which opens in Excel:
                      Surname Location
                      dummy dimmy
                      I then cut and pasted some of my my real info over the dummy entry in the downloaded file, saved the file as "surnames.csv" and tried to Upload it, having first deleted the dummy entry. All I get is the same old same old - a tiny little box at the bottom of the screen, easy to miss, that says "Something went wrong". Adding back "dummy" in the surname box made no difference. I retained the headings in row 1, by the way.
                      I then remembered that you said edit it in Notepad. When I looked at the format in Notepad, it had put quotes around my second row entry, which was meant to go in the surname field as the second row, to explain the subsequent entries:
                      "(Location includes year of oldest known event, and number of generations from Joan Noreen Jones [0] to earliest ancestor of the name)",
                      Notice the inverted commas! (In this row only). I deleted this row in Notepad, just to see what would happen. NOW the file DOES UPLOAD.

                      Annoying however that it does not retain the surname order (where the most important, significant and interesting ones were early on my list, and for my profile I had them sorted into 3 categories) - instead imposing an alphabetic arrangement that indicates maybe why none of my files would upload:

                      If you look at my original post, for MY profile, I had headings in rows 2, 34 and 78: 1. Maternal ancestors; 2. Paternal ancestors; 3. Associated surnames of interest.
                      More recent versions have more information in the Location field, but it needs explanation to be understood - viz.: (Location includes year of oldest known event, and number of generations from Joan Noreen Jones [0] to earliest ancestor of the name). I have added THAT as a subheading in row 2.

                      It's now pretty obvious, I think, that FT-DNA's surname field is expecting nothing but alphabetic surnames and forces alphabetic sorting, which destroys the information in the separation into paternal, maternal and non-ancestral. There turn out to be quite tight character length constraints in both fields too.

                      Anyway, for my maternal aunt and father, that mixing up of lists is not an issue - there is only one list to go in each profile. But for me it means loss of information. On my profile I tried loading first my maternal surnames (same file as my aunt), then uploading paternal surnames [to see if I could retain the order]. The paternal file does NOT upload, nor does it overwrite the maternal info. I conclude that, using the upload CSV, I have to put all the surnames in in one go.

                      I can confirm that editing the CSV file (with those other headings removed) in Excel CSV format does NOT give a file that is accepted for upload. You have to paste the content into a similar file opened in Notepad. At this I simply shake my head - it's NOT a viable procedure for the average user. I remember this primitive program from sometime back in the ancient days of Z80 processors and MS-DOS, but I would never expect to obligatorily have to use it for a modern website - especially when there is not the slightest attempt of FT-DNA to explain the process or the need for Notepad to the user! I imagine that many users would not know even how to find Notepad, or that it was on their system. Is it specific to Windows too?

                      As for getting a subheading in and beating the system, I put in a dummy entry with the following in the fields (which have tight length restrictions that would also have lead to the rejection of my files!)
                      in Surname: aAfter location is year of oldest known event, and
                      in Location: no. of generations from D Fayle [0] - earliest one
                      I will think about how to rephrase these within the character limits so that they are clearer in meaning ...

                      In summary, thanks to you Gecko, I now have my full surname list uploaded, without having to laboriously add single entries with strong likelihood of multiple errors. The result is not all I would wish, being strictly alphabetic, but at least it's there. Hopefully FT-DNA will take notice and do something about their website - if only providing stepwise instructions!


                      • #12
                        Maybe you should be complaining to Microsoft that their product does not produce the output that FTDNA needs.
                        I bet FTDNA would get many more complaints if they required all data in a Microsoft format.

                        Alphabetic list is good. I do not know about you ancestry, so I wouldn't know that I need to look through a paternal list and a maternal list. Alphabetic means I only need to look at one list.
                        Don't make it more complicated than it needs to be - you also have a tree that can show the details.
                        The current system might be a little bit smarter than you think. Names in common with a match get displayed in bold and moved to the top of the list, automatically.

                        After looking at my files again, I need the quotes (and the downloaded CSV automatically puts them rhere) as I use commas in the location field to separate localities / regions / countries as required.

                        It is great that you have the passion to ensure you get the information in. If everyone had a surname list and tree, the system would be much better for all.


                        • #13
                          It sounds like they may have changed something since I posted my complaint that Ancestral Surnames Edit was broken. - I am perfectly willing to enter my handful or so by hand -- BUT it failed every time back in early April, repeatedly leaving me with garbage.


                          • #14
                            Choose to download the file as .csv (comma separated variables). Then another inserted window appears on top with the CSV settings. Mark only the "comma" box in it, then hit enter. It should load the complete file into a spreadsheet. Then add columns, rows, etc to make it easier to read. I also add a last worked on date & time in 2 adjacent cells with the @NOW function. One cell is formated with date setup; the other with time setup.
                            Then, when you save the spreadsheet to your own drive, mark the extension as .ods or whatever. That is how I work around .csv into .ods without having Microsoft office suite. KMC


                            • #15
                              Posted to the FTDNA GAP
                              Genealogy - Surnames Page – CSV Upload Enhancement

                              On the Genealogy - Surnames page in Account Settings, when a user attempts to upload a .CSV file, a message is now displayed that indicates that the file should contain two columns and that the column headers should be formatted as Surname,Location. Also, please note that character limit for the Location field has also been expanded to 100 characters. When a user does not follow the proper .CSV file formatting instructions, they will receive an error.