East Asian category for Polynesians

My mother told me today that she received from the First District Circuit Court that handled her adoption, the non-indentifying form, which is where it lists her biological parents’ ancestries.  They indicated that both parents are Hawaiian and Chinese.  I find that to be an error since my mother had her DNA tested at 3 companies.  Maybe that was based on an assumption or the biological parents may not have known too much about their ancestries.

At the age of 5, she met her biological father and described him as a “pure Hawaiian.”  This made sense since she gets the following percentages from each company.

Screen Shot 2015-07-13 at 3.25.31 PM


So this meant that one parent was just Hawaiian while the other parent was admixed with some European.  Based on all the companies she has tested with and analysis [from Dr. McDonald], my mother gets the following averages.

European = 16%
Oceanian = 25%
East Asian = 55%

Those are based on 23andme, FTDNA’s old Population Finder and Dr. McDonald’s analysis.  FTDNA’s current myOrigin lumped their former Oceania category under Southeast Asia, or the more broader East Asian category.  AncestryDNA however created a Pacific Islander category with the subgroups Polynesia & Melanesia and between myOrigins and Ancestry, the average total is 83%.

In reality, the East Asia category is just one of two components that make up the genome of Polynesians.  The other is Melanesian/Papuan (Oceania).  For Polynesians, autosomally they are 79% East Asian and 21% Melanesian1.

In Population Genetic Structure and Origins of Native Hawaiians in the Multiethnic Cohort Study they applied ADMIXTURE on genome-wide SNP data to finely estimate the degree of admixture in Native Hawaiians.  They found that with Native Hawaiians, “an average of 32% and 68% of their genomes to be derived from Melanesian and Asian origins, respectively”.  But that “[r]ecently, Kayser et al. surveyed the nuclear genome with 377 microsatellite markers in 47 Pacific Islanders and identified 79% Asian and 21% Melanesian proportions of ancestry for Polynesians.”

So while other studies revealed that Polynesian genome consist of 79% Asian and 21% Melanesian components, the study with Hawaiians averaged 32% Melanesian and 68% East Asian2.  The higher amount of Melanesian could be attributed to the repeated bottleneck effects throughout the centuries specifically for eastern Polynesians, i.e. French Polynesians, Rapa Nui, Cook Island Maoris, Maoris from New Zealand and Hawaiians.

My mother averages 25% Oceanian and 55% East Asian.  The two combined equals 80%.  25% (Oceanian) is 31% of the entire Polynesian (80%) percentage.

Just over a year ago I was going through my mother’s matches on GEDmatch and began running their kits through various admixture tools to see their totals of Oceania versus East Asia.  I wanted to see if they fell within the 27% to 32% Melanesian/Papuan/Oceanian.

Screen Shot 2015-07-13 at 5.20.34 PM

This is only a partial list.  There are more lines on the bottom but I am just showing the first several.  I use various calculator admixture tools at GEDmatch that had the specific Oceania/Papuan/Melanesian category.  Dodecad World9 uses “Australian” instead. I created a column that totaled the average.  And the columns to the right of that shows those who tested at other companies and their Oceania percentages.  What is not shown in the list is the proportion of East Asian that would prove it does fall within the 27% – 32% Oceania.

The first row (in red) belongs to my mother, followed by my averages and then my brother’s.  The following lines in bold are for those at least 95% Polynesian.  I took the lowest and the highest percentages of Oceanian to see if it falls within the range consistent with the research.  Since these admixture calculators did not have just a single East Asia category alone, I listed the other categories that are known to split off from the East Asia category.

Eurogenes K9b
Oceania = 17.74%
Southeast Asian = 48.87%
Northeast Asian = 13.32%
Native American = 1.55%

Adding the Southeast Asian, Northeast Asian and Native American categories total 63.74%.  17.74% Oceanian makes up 27.8% of the total (East Asian compiled categories) of the Polynesian genome.  Consistent with the research.  Looking at the highest percentage.

MDLP World
Melanesian = 20.78%
East Asian = 56.31%
Artic Amerind = 1.65%
Mesoamerica = 0.13%

There was an Indian category showing 3.74%, but I did not add that in.  Adding it, changed the overall percentage to 33%, but leaving it out made it 35.7% of the Polynesian portion. For the others listed on that list, they also picked up a small 1 – 3% of the Indian category, and leaving it out made their average 30%.  If I look at the average column for all the admixture calculators for my mother, it comes out to 30%.

But what happens when there is a higher percentage of East Asian?  In my case, it is higher because my father was Filipino. My portion could easily be verified simply by removing 50% (my father’s contribution) from my average total of 85% East Asian giving me 35% East Asian that would be my Hawaiian/Polynesian side.  My average (GEDmatch) showed 32%.

There are many Hawaiians admixed with Chinese, Japanese, Filipino or Korean, being that they were all immigrant groups to the Hawaiian islands.  Are you able to tell if they have an Asian admixture?  Can it be distinguished from the East Asian that is part of the Polynesian genome?  This is something I have been seeing more now particularly with adoptees.

Any excess East Asian percentage  compared to the Oceanian percentage [79% to 21%], would indicate that the person is admixed with some other Asian ancestry.  Since my mother’s genome does not indicate any more East Asian than what it should for Polynesians, it is clear that she does not have any additional Asian ancestry.


1. Genome-Wide Analysis indicates More Asian than Melanesian Ancestry of Polynesians
2. Population Genetic Structure and Origins of Native Hawaiians in the Multiethnic Cohort Study


3 thoughts on “East Asian category for Polynesians

  1. Hi, I really appreciate all the research that went into your website and articles.
    I came here because I took a test on ancestry.com and it showed me having <1% Polynesian they also have me as 19% Native American ans 3% Asian. I have Tribal records that have my descent as having 5/16th or 31.25% Native American ancestry. So I have been researching to find out what's going on with that and it led me to your webpage.

    As far as the trace amount is concerned, I noticed that you replied to another commenter that if a person was of African American descent it was possible to have gotten polynesian from Madagascar. My results show me as having 46% African. So maybe that has something to do with it.

    But I also notice that Native American shows up in the results of Polynesians. I am wondering what you think about that. Do you think that the results are confused somehow and they are just switching them because they are similar. I have heard about noise. But I don't know enough about statistics to understand how that works.

    I don't completely understand how the %'s are assigned. It seems strange that people that don't think they have a certain ethnicity in their DNA, show up with trace amounts of say Polynesian or Native America. I wonder if you have a theory on why these seem to show up in results.
    And if it has a correlation to why I have a trace amount of Polynesian.

    My first thought was that perhaps it was due to historical migrations from Asia to America.
    But migration does not account to why Polynesians have Native American. Unless there was intermixing from South America via Easter Island and throughout the rest of the chain.

    Just curious if you had any thoughts on this relationship. Thanks


    • Hi!

      Yes, some with African ancestry who would normally pick up some small percentages of Southeast Asia would mean they have Malagasy ancestry. This would be more evident if you have ties to the areas where the Malagasy slaves were brought. I remember New York area and I think New Jersey. Not sure of any other places. Of course the Southeast Asia category doesn’t exist at Ancestry so what these people would get instead is even a smaller amount of POLYNESIA.

      But I’m going to guess that based on your amount of NA that is why you got some of the Polynesia coming up. My Salvadorian friend who is about 48% NA and tested at 23andme got less than 1% of Oceania. A Polynesian genome consist of about 70% EA + 30% Oceania/Melanesia.

      Both my mother and I as well as my brother get some small bits of NA at 23andme and Ancestry. I have 0.3%, and I think my mom has 0.4%. But FTDNA we show nothing. With GEDmatch, they can go as high as 1%, I though I remember seeing 2% but not sure about that.

      But it has to do (as they say) our shared ancestry. NA and Polynesians came out of EA thousands of years. I thought for NA it was 10,000 yrs ago? For Polynesians, their Southeast Asian ancestors moved into the Oceania area about 7,000 yrs ago. I don’t know when the SEA broke off from the EA branch, has to be before 7,000yrs ago.

      There was research done on Easter Island people but that proved to be nothing, although the actual testing and research was confusing. But it didn’t support NA ancestry for those people. That doesn’t mean that there was no contact with the Americas. If there weren’t any, we wouldn’t have received the sweet potato.


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