Friday Night Family Heirlooms… telling their stories: China Tea Set

Friday Night Family Heirlooms… telling their stories

When “heirlooms” aren’t identified, and their stories never told, they often become items tossed or sold – as they have no history, no ties to the family. So take the time to identify your family heirlooms history and record your memories so the family treasures aren’t tossed in the trash. They are just as valuable as your family photographs and also need to be documented. Sometimes it’s not even the value of the item in question; it’s the story which holds the value.

Mama’s China Tea Set


This china tea set was given to my mother when she was a young girl by her aunt… Aunt Lena McKinley Van Dusen; mama’s favorite aunt!

My mother tells me she wasn’t allowed to play often with it as her mother kept it put away like she did with many things… which frustrated mama because she just wanted to play with it. Grandmama was trying to keep it from being broken, and she did a good job because I now have it.

The only time my mother was allowed to play with it was the few times she was sick, otherwise, it was put away… to save, in Grandmama’s eyes.


As I looked at the fragile china tea set pieces, I noticed one or two had been gently repaired, and I’m sure it was granddaddy who sat at the kitchen table making those caring repairs… and maybe telling mama, “this is why your mother didn’t want you to play with them.

I couldn’t read the words “Made in Japan” at first, as it seemed to look more like part of the pattern, but the more I looked… it was there! It was shown more prominent on the plate than on the bottom of the teapot; the cups and small saucers had no pattern markings.


By the marking of “Made in Japan” it helps me to date the tea set. If mama was a young girl when it was given to her, I’m thinking it was bought in the late 1930’s.

The McKinley Tariff Act was passed after 1891 and it was then that most pieces were actually marked with a country’s origin. Japan first used the marking of “Nippon,” which is the Japanese transliteration of the word Japan. It was later in 1921 when the U. S. Customs began to require the country names to be written in English, and it soon read “Made in Japan.” Later the name changed once again between February 1947 – April 1952, and it then read “Made in Occupied Japan“. Later after 1952, it was changed once again, and now just the word “Japan” was used.

Click Friday Night Family Heirlooms to read more stories…

© 2017, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved

Family Heirloom Bloggers:

I started a Family Heirloom challenge in November 2015 asking fellow bloggers to join me in telling the stories of their family heirlooms. Writing the stories of the family heirlooms I’ve been entrusted with has been on my mind for a long time; the time is now and I plan to write their stories on a weekly basis.

Please check out the weekly Family Heirloom stories of…

Blogger: Cathy Meder-Dempsey at Opening Doors in Brick Walls
Blogger: Karen Biesfeld at Vorfahrensucher
Blogger: Kendra Schmidt at trekthrutime
Blogger: Linda Stufflebean at Empty Branches on the Family Tree
Blogger:  Schalene Jennings Dagutis at Tangled Roots and Trees
Blogger: True Lewis at Notes to Myself
Blogger: Vera Marie Badertscher at Ancestors in Aprons                              Blogger: Heather Lisa Dubnick at  Little Oak Blog
Blogger: Kathy Rice at
Blogger: Mary Harrell-Sesniak at  Genealogy Bank Heirlooms Blog
Blogger: Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks theme for 2015 Week 24 was Heirlooms. Check out her Blog at –  52 Ancestors Challenge 2015: Week 24 Recap  for links to more Heirloom posts.


About Jeanne Bryan Insalaco

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2 Responses to Friday Night Family Heirlooms… telling their stories: China Tea Set

  1. Evelyn Smith says:

    Interesting. Of course, I knew about the McKinley Tariff Act but never put it together with items being marked with origin of manufacture.
    That is a pretty tea set and you can bet that Helen would have broken it sooner or later, if she’d been allowed to play with it on a regular basis. We never understand the reasonings of our parents, do we. Helen was probably thinking how mean Aunt Ola was for not letting her play with her gift. Now she understands, as do you.
    If you hadn’t mentioned that Uncle Edgar did a repair job on a piece of it, I’d never known. Still can’t see it. Nice job.

    Liked by 1 person

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