Can genetic tests confirm my wife's being part Marquesas Islander?
May 29, 2014 2:53 PM   Subscribe

Family lore suggests that my waspoid wife's g.g.g.grandmother was a Marquesas Islander brought back to England by her missionary husband. Pretty cool if true. So - which, if any, of the over-the-counter gene tests would prove or disprove this?

I ask because there seems a lot of pooh-poohing on the internet about what you can or cannot get for your one to two hundred dollars, and which tests you will actually want. If it matters, the line would be her mothers mother was the daughter of the son of this union. She also has a brother, if he would be a better test subject. (My wife's possession of some small extra eye muscle - commented on by an ophthalmologist - normally found in Asian gene pools is evidence that this could be true.)
posted by BWA to Science & Nature (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
It's unlikely that you'd be able to *conclusively* prove it one way or another, that far back. If she were a straight female-line descendant you *might* be able to look at mitochondrial DNA, and if her brother were a straight male-line descendant from a male Marquesan you might be able to look at Y-chromosome markers. So if your wife's ancestress was in fact Marquesan, 1/32 (right?) of your wife's genes would come from the Marquesas. It's entirely possible that that 3% sliver of her g.g.g.grandmother's genes doesn't contain any of the markers that the companies look for.

You probably also want to look for a company that specifically tests for Polynesian or Pacific Islander heritage and doesn't just lump it in with East Asians.
posted by mskyle at 3:14 PM on May 29, 2014

A motherline would be best to show such a descent, as the MtDNA is usually different between Polynesian and European groups. If the marriage produced a daughter, I would work on finding her descendents.

Otherwise, 3x great grandmother is not so far back and documentary evidence is still your best bet. For a couple of hundred dollars you could pay somebody in England to comb census, church, or other records to find proof of her birth place.
posted by Thing at 3:21 PM on May 29, 2014 [5 favorites]

Alas, no daughters as far as I know. One son, whose hair, it was said, was jet black to the day he died. Records it may have to be.
posted by BWA at 5:26 PM on May 29, 2014

23andme will tell you.
posted by hal_c_on at 9:21 PM on May 29, 2014

Polynesia is all about genealogy. Have you tried this route?
posted by BAKERSFIELD! at 9:32 AM on May 30, 2014

Polynesia is all about genealogy.

Head slap. What a thought. And it never occurred to me. Here's goes the rest of this afternoon.
posted by BWA at 9:20 AM on May 31, 2014

On top of the normal avenues of census, births deaths and marriages and parish records, perhaps follow up on the missionary lead, if true you may find information about your wife's palagi male ancestor in the London Missionary Society papers (I think they are at SOAS here's their guide on tracing missionary ancestry.

Message boards are great for getting in touch with other researchers on the same family name who have more information.

Don't rule out history books for the Marquesas as either ancestor may get a mention. Try google.books as well.
posted by BAKERSFIELD! at 7:25 AM on June 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

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