Mr John Joseph Kiernan was born in Fostragh, Ballinamuck, Co Longford, Ireland around 1887.
He was the son of John Kiernan (b. 1840), a farmer, and Catherine Kelleher (b. 1843) who had married in 1867. One of ten surviving siblings born to his parents, from a total of eleven, his known siblings were: Catherine (b. 1875), Bernard (b. 1880), Margaret (b. 1883), Philip (b. 1890) and Ellen (b. 1893).
John appears on the 1901 census living with his family at house 2 in Fostragh, Ballinamuck. Aged 14, he had already left school and was working on his father's farm. He later emigrated to the USA around 1905, showing up on the 1910 census living with his elder sister Catherine Tierney and her large family in Jersey City, New Jersey. Whilst there he worked as a barman for his maternal uncle Philip Kelleher (b. 1855), a widower, in one of his establishments at 268 Varick Street, Jersey City.
John returned home to Ireland in August 1911 to visit family. For his return to New Jersey he would be accompanied by his younger brother Philip and they were also travelling with a crowd from their area in Co Longford with included the Murphy sisters, Catherine and Margaret, and Thomas McCormack, who was apparently a cousin. It is reported that Margaret Murphy and John Kiernan were sweethearts and intent on marrying once they reached America. John boarded the Titanic at Queenstown on 11 April 1912 as a third class passenger (ticket number 367227, which cost £7, 15s). It is believed he shared a cabin with his brother and Thomas McCormack.
On the night of the sinking John, after encountering difficulties getting to higher decks escorted the Murphy sisters to a lifeboat, giving Margaret his lifebelt as she did not have one.
John Kiernan died in the sinking and his body, if recovered, was never identified.