James Edward Byrne was born in Bethnal Green, Middlesex, England over the summer months of 1867. He was the son of William Byrne (b. 1830) and Jane Furlong Adams (b. 1835).
His father, a vellum binder, was native to London whilst his mother hailed from Co Cork, Ireland and the two were married in 1856. James had eight known siblings: William (b. 1858), Jane Furlong (b. 1860), Eliza Rebecca (b. 1861), Ellen (b. 1863), Christopher (b. 1865), Charles (b. 1869), Thomas David (b. 1873) and Roger John (b. 1875).
James and his family appear on the 1871 census and at that time are listed as living at 2 Peel Grove, Bethnal Green. The 1881 census would show the family living at 64 Sewardstone Road in Bethnal Green; James, aged 13, is still a schoolboy whilst his elder siblings are described as assistants in various capacities (stationer/vellum sewer) to his father. Whether James also followed this route is unclear and he would be absent from the 1891 census, possibly indicating that he had commenced at career at sea by that point. His mother, now a widow (his father passed away around 1882) and his brother Roger were listed as living at 25 Autcliffe (?) Road, Mile End. His mother passed away the following year aged 58.
James would not appear on either the 1901 census or the 1911 census.
When he signed-on to the Titanic, on 4 April 1912, James gave his age as 38, and his address as 218 Balfour Road, Ilford, Essex, the home address of his married sister Eliza Rebecca and her husband Sidney Herbert Ray. His previous ship had been the Olympic. As a bedroom steward James received monthly wages of £3, 15s.
James Byrne died in the sinking. His body, if recovered, was never identified.
His sister Eliza, who was childless, had been married in 1887 to Sidney Herbert Ray, a teacher. She remained in Essex for the rest of her life and died in 1931, her husband following her in 1939.