Polynesia, Austronesia, Micronesia, Melanesia, and Archipelagos

Polynesian ancestry is in reference to people having roots or ancestry from a group of specific islands and archipelagos. An archipelago is defined as a chain of islands, a collection of islands, or a group of scattered islands. Within these archipelagos are different ethnic island tribes. There are many archipelagos throughout the world. The focus is on Polynesia, Austronesia, Micronesia, Melanesia since they all pertain to the Pacific ocean.

See below for references across the world pertaining to archipelagos.


Regarding Polynesian ancestry, ancestry.com explains it simply:

Polynesian Ethnicity

Most of Polynesia’s islands lie within a triangular area in the Pacific Ocean. The Polynesian Triangle’s “points” are Hawaii, Easter Island (Rapu Nui) and New Zealand. It’s a world defined by the ocean. With about 120,000 square miles of land spread across some 10 million square miles of water, Polynesia’s islands were among the last places on Earth to be settled by humans. Despite great distances separating the outer islands, the Polynesian people are linked by linguistic, cultural and genetic ties.

Polynesian Geography

Modern Polynesia comprises more than 1,000 islands scattered throughout the Central and South Pacific. Major island groups include Tonga, Samoa, the Cook Islands, French Polynesia and Hawaii, among others. Most lie east of Fiji, which serves as a rough border between Melanesia and Polynesia. The majority of Polynesia’s islands are volcanic, although some are coral atolls, and a few, like New Zealand and Norfolk Island, are remnants of the submerged continent of Zealandia.


Many scholars believe that the Polynesian people originated on another island: Formosa, or modern-day Taiwan. They assert that Austronesian migrants made their way south to the Philippines, then continued into maritime Southeast Asia. A second theory, which genetic research may help to confirm, is that Polynesia’s Austronesian roots lie not in the north, but deeper in Southeast Asia.

Your ethnicity reveals the places where your family story began.

Superior sailors

Wherever their true homeland lies, the Neolithic Austronesians were accomplished sailors. Eventually, they settled the north coast of Papua New Guinea and the Bismarck and Solomon Islands, bringing domesticated chickens, pigs and a few crops for farming. These Neolithic Austronesians were most likely the ancestors of the Lapita culture, which reached as far east as Tonga and, many believe, gave rise to the Polynesian culture. The Polynesians’ ancestors continued spreading east by sea: 2,500 years before Columbus sailed his ships across the Atlantic, they had already populated the islands of Fiji, Tonga and Samoa. The early Polynesians continued east to Tahiti and the Marquesas, then ventured north to Hawaii and farther southeast to Rapu Nui (Easter Island). New Zealand was the last major landmass on Earth to be populated by humans—the Polynesians finally landed there around the 13th century. Their descendants are the Maori people.

The Polynesians developed superior navigation skills based on stars, currents, flight patterns of birds and other natural observations that allowed them to cross wide stretches of open ocean. They migrated to the farthest reaches of the Polynesian Triangle on large, double-hulled canoes, akin to modern catamarans. These boats could carry both settlers and their cargo, including plants and animals. Starting in the 1970s, groups from the Polynesian Islands began building boats based on the old designs, studying traditional navigation and retracing the ancient voyages between the islands. One group recently completed a trip from New Zealand to Easter Island and back, sailing two waka hourua (double-hulled canoes) more than 10,000 nautical miles.

Polynesian languages

Polynesians speak a related group of languages called Malayo-Polynesian, which comes from a Proto-Austronesian language spoken in Southeast Asia millennia ago. One interesting difference between Polynesia and Melanesia is the wider diversity in languages among the islands of Melanesia. Melanesia is one of the most linguistically diverse regions in the world, while Polynesia typically has one language per island group.

Austronesian is a term relating to the type of languages spoken. Whereas Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia relate more to the geography of the Pacific island archipelagos. Usually, these islands are made up of tribes. The most famous island tribe overall, are Hawaiians. I sincerely recommend Tribalpedia as a method for learning about all tribal peoples. New Zealand, Samoa, Tonga, Cook Islands (includes Tahiti), and Hawaii Islands consist of Polynesia. Hawaii and Tahiti are subsets of Austronesia (based on language category, thus the theory of Taiwan as the originator of Polynesians).

What countries consist of Melanesia?

A subregion of Oceania, Melanesia includes the four countries of Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu, and a few other territories of some countries.?

What countries/islands consist of Micronesia? We all know Guam, but have you heard of the others or visited those before?


List of the Islands of Micronesia
There are three primary island groups that make up the tropical islands of the area called Oceania in the Pacific Ocean – Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia. This article lists highlights of the islands that form the island group called Micronesia.

Geographically Micronesia lies west of Polynesia, north of Melanesia and east of the Philippines. That puts it primarily in the North Pacific Ocean, though its southernmost islands straddle the equator. It incorporates thousands of small islands and islets, with a land area totaling about 1200 sq. mi., covering over 3 million square miles of water in the western Pacific Ocean.

In order of size, the island groups/countries that make up Micronesia are:

Kiribati – 313 sq. mi.; population 102,000

An independent nation straddling both the equator and the International Date Line, Kiribati is the only country in the world that falls in all four hemispheres. 33 coral atolls, 21 of which are inhabited, spread over 1.3 million square miles. One of the poorest countries in the world it has minimal tourist facilities. Popular tourist activities include sailing, snorkeling, and exploring the local culture.

Federated States of Micronesia – 270 sq. mi.; population 111,000

An independent country in the Caroline Islands made up of four primary island groups (Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei, and Kosrae) with over 600 islands (only 65 of which are inhabited), spread over 1,000,000 sq. mi. of ocean east of Palau and the Philippines. Due to its remoteness, there are minimal tourist facilities on these islands. Popular tourist activities include scuba diving, especially in Truk Lagoon with a sunken Japanese fleet, snorkeling, and exploring the local culture.

Guam – 210 sq. mi.; population 186,000

A territory of the United States (and one of its primary military bases in the Pacific), Guam is the largest single island in Micronesia, and the southernmost island in the Marianas Archipelago, about three quarters of the way from Hawaii to the Philippines. Guam has a flourishing tourism business comprised mostly of Japanese and other Asian visitors. Popular tourist activities include scuba diving, snorkeling and other water sports, duty free shopping, hiking and visiting historical sites.

Northern Mariana Islands – 179 sq. mi.; population 45,000

A commonwealth, or territory, of the United States, the Northern Mariana Islands consist of 14 islands, only three of which are inhabited; southern islands are limestone with fringing coral reefs while the northern islands are volcanic. Popular tourist activities include scuba diving, snorkeling and other water sports, golfing, gambling and visiting historical sites.

Palau – 177 sq. mi.; population 21,000

An independent nation in the westernmost part of Micronesia, roughly 500 miles southeast of the Philippines, Palau is an archipelago made up of over 300 islands, only 8 of which are inhabited. Remote and not easily accessible, it still has a high tourist trade due to superb dive sites. Popular tourist activities include scuba diving, snorkeling, visiting historical sites (both ancient cultural history and World War II history), kayaking, wildlife and bird-watching, and photography.

Marshall Islands – 70 sq. mi.; population 68,000

An independent nation made up of two archipelagos containing 29 atolls and five single islands located north of Kiribati and east of the Federated States of Micronesia. Popular tourist activities include scuba diving, snorkeling, and enjoying the local culture.

Nauru – 8 sq. mi.; population 9,000

An independent nation; single island south of the Marshall Islands that has a sandy beach rising to a fertile ring around raised coral reefs with a phosphate plateau in the center. Most of the island’s income has come from mining the phosphate. Given the small size and remoteness of the island, there is not a lot in the way of tourist facilities. Popular tourist activities include scuba diving and snorkeling.

Wake Island – 2.5 sq. mi.; population 150

An unincorporated territory and military base of the United States, Wake Island is an atoll of three low coral islands, about two thirds of the way from Hawaii to the Northern Mariana Islands. There are no indigenous inhabitants and only about 150 military and contractor personnel servicing the military landing strip and communication facilities. As of January 6, 2009, Wake Island was included in the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument. No tourism.

Finally, what is Austronesian? Freedictionary.com defines the term as:

family of languages that includes the Formosan, Indonesian, Malay, Melanesian, Micronesian, and Polynesian subfamilies.

Which is why I am so proud of being Formosan. Aloha oe! Thank you for taking the time to read this.

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