John was born in Stockport, the son of Patrick and Mary Ann Kenealy. Records differ as to his age. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission records that he was 34 when he died. However, the 1901 Census states he was then 15, making him probably 31 in 1917.
The Census records that Patrick Kenealy, then aged 39, had been born in Ireland and was working as a general labourer. There is no mention of Mary Ann, who may have died by that time. John, then aged 15, was working as a cotton weaver as was his younger brother, Martin (13). His sister Bridget was a domestic servant whilst Margaret (10) and Patrick (8) were at school.
Patrick, senior, died between January and March 1902 and Margaret also died, in the early part of 1906.
Patrick enlisted into the army in September 1914, probably going overseas with the Battalion a year later. Apart from a few weeks in France, all of John's service was on the Salonika front in Greece where British troops faced the Bulgarian army.
Regimental records indicate that John died of wounds he had received. The Battalion was not involved in any major actions during April and the Battalion's War Diary makes no reference to casualties in the several days before he died. It is not possible, therefore, know what happened to him.
In the edition of the Stockport Express, published on 7 June 1917, his brothers and sisters, then living at 14 Tatton Street, inserted an "in memorium" notice for John. There would be further grief for the family when Patrick Kenealy died, at home, in August 1918, as a result of his war service.