John Barnes was born in Boscombe, Bournemouth, Hampshire, England in mid-1872 and baptised on 19 July that same year.
He was the son of Henry Barnes (b. 1851 in East Stoke, Dorset), a railway platelayer, and his wife Annie Williams (b. 1853 in Wool, Dorset). His parents had married around 1870, appearing childless on the 1871 census living at Windham Road in Springbourne, Hampshire. John may have been their eldest child and he would later gain six (known of) siblings: Harry (b. 1874), William (b. 1877), Charles (b. 1880), Annie Louisa (b. 1884), Fanny Eliza (b. 1886), and Mary (b. 1888).
When John pears on the 1881 census he and his family are living at Conuit House on Palmerston Road in Christchurch, Hampshire, his father now described as a brick maker.
By the time John appears on the 1891 census he was 18 and was married to a woman named Amelia "Minnie", née Beale (b. 1868 in Christchurch). The couple, who married in Christchurch in the latter months of 1890, are recorded as living at 11 Blackwater near Christchurch and John is, like his father, described as a brick maker. Following this, John and his wife would have a total of nine children, five of whom, unfortunately, succumbed in infancy. Their surviving children were: Thomas William (b. 1894), Alice Beatrice (b. 1899), Rose Amelia (b. 1901) and William (b. 1903). Another two identified children, James (b. 1893) and Frederick (b. 1896) died in childhood.
The 1901 census shows that John is absent from home, perhaps at sea. His wife and children were listed as living at Netley Green in Hound, Hampshire. John would reappear for the 1911 census, by which time and he and his family were resident at 20 Woodley Road, Woolston, Southampton and he was described as a general labourer.
When John signed on to the Titanic, on 6 April 1912, he gave his address as Woodley Road, Woolston and his previous ship as the Oceanic. As a fireman he could expect to earn monthly wages of £6.
What became of John's widow Amelia is not certain although it seems she never remarried and possibly died in the 1930s.
John's daughter Alice (later Mrs Reginald Baker) died in Portsmouth in 1991 and his daughter Rose (later Mrs William Miles) died in Southampton in 1983. The fate of his two surviving sons is uncertain.