John Garfirth was born in Wollaston, Northamptonshire, England on 24 October 1889, later being baptised on 12 January the following year.
He was the son of George Garfirth (b. 1849), a gardener, and Ann Robinson (b. 1850). Both his parents were natives of Northamptonshire who had married in 1868, going on to have ten children.1
John's known siblings were: John (1873-1873), Thomas (1875-1958), James (1877-1951), Edward (1879-1947), Ernest (1881-1955), Herbert (1885-1956), Alice (1887-1940, later Mrs Walter Garfirth), Alfred (1892-1965) and Leonard (1894-1918).
He first appears on the 1891 census living with his family on High Street in Wollaston. His father, a gardener for many years to a Mr John Walker Watts, died in 1897 and the remaining family moved to Hinwick Road, also in Wollaston, appearing there on both the 1901 and 1911 census records. The latter record shows John working as a pressman in a boot factory. He was assistant scoutmaster of the Wollaston Troop and a member of St John's Ambulance Corps.
John and his friend and close neighbour George Patchett, also a boot worker decided to emigrate to Berlin, Ontario where George had already had a brother who had secured them both positions. They were originally supposed to have travelled from Liverpool aboard the Empress of Ireland on 5 April 1912 but their attempts to join that ship were hampered by the coal strikes; their train, which they were due to catch at Wellingborough Station ran late and they were informed that it would run no further than Manchester. Bitterly disappointed, the two men fetched their luggage and returned home, making plans to transfer their passage to another ship, Titanic. The men boarded Titanic at Southampton on 10 April 1912 as third class passengers (joint ticket number 358585 which cost £14, 10s). Before joining the ship Garfirth hurriedly sent a postcard to his family; the quick note, adorned with an illustration of Titanic merely said:
"Too busy to write...."
His family never heard from him again and John Garfirth died in the sinking and his body, if recovered, was never identified. George Patchett was also among the lost.
John's mother continued to live in Wollaston and she died in 1922. His youngest sibling Leonard later fought in WWI in the 14th Battalion of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. He was killed in action in France on 27 March 1918.