Cutaneous malignant melanoma is an aggressive cancer of melanocytes with a strong propensity to metastasize. We posit that melanoma cells acquire metastatic capability by adopting an embryonic-like phenotype, and that a lineage approach would uncover metastatic melanoma biology. Using a genetically engineered mouse model to generate a rich melanoblast transcriptome dataset, we identify melanoblast-specific genes whose expression contribute to metastatic competence and derive a 43-gene signature that predicts patient survival. We identify a melanoblast gene, KDELR3, whose loss impairs experimental metastasis. In contrast, KDELR1 deficiency enhances metastasis, providing the first example of different disease etiologies within the KDELR-family of retrograde transporters. We show that KDELR3 regulates the metastasis suppressor, KAI1, and report an interaction with the E3 ubiquitin-protein ligase gp78, a regulator of KAI1 degradation. Our work demonstrates that the melanoblast transcriptome can be mined to uncover targetable pathways for melanoma therapy.