John Anderson was born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Northumberland, England in 1870.
He was the son of William Anderson (b. 1836), a forge furnace man, and Margaret Rutherford, née Collins (b. 1834), natives of Newcastle and Hexham respectively who had married in 1862. His mother had a previous marriage to James Rutherford and had two children, Edith (b. 1855) and Charles Henry (b. 1860) before she was widowed at a young age. John had two known siblings: William Robert (b. 1868) and Alfred (b. 1872).
He and his family appear on the 1871 census living at 13 Duke Street, Westgate, Newcastle; within the next few years they moved to Sunderland, Durham before resettling in Southampton, Hampshire before the close of the decade. The 1881 and 1891 censuses shows the family at Itchen, St Mary with the latter record describing John as a labourer in a shipyard.
Following this, the family drops off the radar and John's activities over the next two decades are unknown. He is not believed to have been married and is understood to have lived in Southampton with a brother.
When he signed-on to the Titanic on 6 April 1912 Anderson gave his address as 1 Cosens Court, Lime Street1, Southampton. His previous ship had been the Cape Colona and as an able-bodied seaman he received monthly wages of £5.
Anderson was rescued in lifeboat 3; he was not called to testify to either of the American or British Inquiries into the sinking.
Whether he ever returned to sea is not certain and appears to have spent time living in Cardiff where he sold mementos of the Titanic. The events of the disaster took a toll on him; reportedly a man of quiet disposition, he was eventually admitted to an asylum, Cardiff's Whitchurch Mental Hospital, as a result of shock.
In late June 1914, the South Wales Daily News reported that he had gone missing from the institution, eluding his custodian whilst out on exercise. According to early reports, his body was later found on 30 June 1914 in Cardiff's West Dock; having drowned. However, the Western Mail (2 July 1914) reported that he had in fact been rescued and returned to the asylum.