Mr James Kelly was born in Co Meath, Ireland around 1868 but other details about his early life are unknown.
He left Ireland as a young man and went to sea; ships he served aboard during the late 1890s and early 1900s included: Teutonic, Lucania, Oceanic, Cedric, and Campania.
He was married around 1897 to Mary Conlan (born circa 1878 in Co Monaghan, Ireland). They went on to be the parents of four children, losing one in infancy. Their eldest surviving child, James (b. 1900) was born in Southampton whilst two more sons, Francis Richard (b. 1902) and John (b. 1908) were born in Liverpool.
He, his wife and son James appear on the 1901 English census living at 66 Verdi Street, Seaforth, Lancashire and James was described as a marine fireman. Around 1909 James moved his family southward to Southampton, the White Star Line having changed their port of departure to that city from Liverpool. The 1911 census shows the family living at 12 Woodley Road, Woolston, Southampton. James is still described as a marine fireman and his two elder boys are at school. He was a regular attendee for Mass at St Patrick's Church in Woolston.
When he signed on to the Titanic on 6 April 1912 Kelly gave his address as 12 Woodleigh Road, Southampton. His previous ship had been the St Paul and as a greaser he would earn monthly wages of £6, 10s.
James Kelly died in the sinking and his body, if recovered, was never identified.
His widow and children returned to Ireland and set up home in Co Monaghan where his wife is believed to have died in the early 1920s.
His son Francis became caught up in the changes sweeping Ireland in the early 20th century and became a member of the Irish Republican Army during the Irish War of Independence. Following the creation of the Irish Free State he joined the pro-Anglo-Irish Treaty National Army in which he served for the duration of the Irish Civil War, leaving in 1923 and migrating to America where he married and began a family of four children. He returned to Ireland during the Depression era and made his home in Cork City where he was employed in an automobile plant before once again crossing the ocean and settling in Buffalo, New York where he worked in the printing plant for The Courier Express. He died in 1997.
His son John also settled in Buffalo and worked as a stationery engineer in a newspaper printers and married an American woman, Violet Stebbins (b. 1905). He died in 1987.
His eldest son James is believed to have settled in Ontario but what became of him is not clear.