Protein electrophoresis is used for the detection, evaluation and follow-up of monoclonal gammopathy (MG) conditions such as Waldenström macroglobulinemia (WM). Immunofixation electrophoresis (IFE) is currently the most common method for isotyping of monoclonal gammopathy because of its superior sensitivity relative to immunoelectrophoresis (IEP). We designed a study to evaluate the clinicobiological relevance of small monoclonal bands detected by serum protein electrophoresis, IEP, and IFE. Serum protein electrophoresis, IEP, and IFE were used to evaluate possible monoclonal gammopathy in 46 members (29 relatives and 17 nonbloodline spouses) from 3 families with multiple cases of WM. IFE identified small monoclonal bands initially missed by IEP in 5 individuals (2 blood relatives, 3 spouses) among 46 study participants. All bands were IgM type. Twenty-three individuals, including the 2 blood relatives and 2 of 3 spouses with monoclonal gammopathy, were then followed for a median of 17 years (range, 13–25). The monoclonal gammopathy progressed in the 2 relatives but disappeared in the spouses, and new IgM MG developed in 2 additional relatives with a prior history of IgM polyclonal gammopathy. Small monoclonal bands detected by IFE in a familial context may be biologically meaningful, both as phenotypic biomarkers and possibly as predictors of high risk for WM. Polyclonal IgM may also be a marker of genetic susceptibility in WM families. Larger studies are needed to confirm these observations. © 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.