He was the son of James Flynn and Catherine Broadwood. He apparently often went by his middle name, Irwin. As an adult he had a fair complexion, was 5ft 11in. tall, weighed 200 pounds, had brown hair, blue eyes. He lived in Toronto, Canada before emigrating to the United States in 1892, traveling through Windsor, Ontario to Detroit, Wayne County, Michigan aboard the Grand Trunk Railroad.
He seems to have first been married, briefly, to Winifred Emaline Douglass. The ceremony took place in Toronto on 28 April 1900.
John was married again, circa 1901/1902, to Sarah Alberta Dutterer. John and Alberta moved to New York City and had a daughter Virginia Katherine Flynn, born on 4 March 1904 (she was later married to Francis W. Morris). On 1 June 1905, Irwin and Alberta, their daughter Virginia, and two roomers lived at 84 Street in Manhattan. He was a floor manager for a dry goods store while Alberta was a trained nurse.
On 23 April 1910, Irwin and Alberta and their daughter Virginia lived in Brooklyn, Kings County New York. He worked as a buyer for a dry goods house.
John was working as a buyer for Gimbel Brothers in New York City in April 1912 (as were fellow passengers James McGough and Edward Calderhead). He boarded the Titanic at Southampton (Ticket No. PC 14474). He shared cabin E-25 on the starboard side of the Titanic with McGough.
Flynn was in bed at the time the Titanic hit the iceberg. After the collision Flynn woke Edward Calderhead in the adjoining cabin. As they were leaving their stateroom and asked Steward George Dodd, “Is there any danger?” and he told them that they should go back to bed. The men wakened the woman across the hall from them. They then went up to A Deck and after about ten minutes they were told to put on their lifebelts. They returned to their stateroom to get their lifebelts and when they returned to deck, they discovered that the order for launching the lifeboats had been given. The men boarded Lifeboat 5. On the list of Titanic passengers arriving aboard the Carpathia he was listed as “J. Irwin Flynn.”
Irwin and Alberta later returned to Europe. They sailed from Cherbourg aboard the S.S. Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse on 9 April 1913, arriving in New York City on 16 April 1913. They were heading back to their home at 635 Washington Street in Brooklyn.
John lived with his wife at 5721 Elmer Street in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania between 1917 and 1921. He registered for the World War I draft in 1917 while living in Pittsburgh. He was working as a merchant for the Kauffmann Big Store. On 2 January 1920, J. Irvin Flynn, his wife Alberta, and their daughter Virginia lived in Apartment #6 at 5721 Elmer Street in Pittsburgh. Irvin was working as a department store buyer.
John sailed on the S.S. Rotterdam from Plymouth, England on 24 March 1921, arriving in New York City on 2 April 1921. He was working as a merchant. John became a naturalized citizen of the United States in December 1923. Alberta had lost her United States citizenship at the time she married Flynn due to a law passed by Congress taking away American citizenship from women who married foreign-born men. ON 24 January 1927, she formally regained her citizenship while living in Pittsburgh.
John, Alberta, and Virginia sailed from Southampton on the S.S. Rotterdam on 16 April 1924, arriving in New York City on 25 April 1924.
The family lived at 5418 Kipling Road in Pittsburgh between 1925 and 1930. He was still working as a merchant. John sailed from Cherbourg aboard the RMS Olympic on 30 April 1925, arriving in New York City on 6 May 1925. One wonders whether it seemed strange to travel on a ship that resembled the Titanic so strongly. Apparently it did not bother Flynn, since he sailed from Cherbourg on the Olympic on 6 April 1927, arriving on 12 April 1927 in New York City and again sailed from Cherbourg aboard the Olympic on 19 March 1930, arriving on 26 March 1930 in New York City.
Alberta and her daughter Virginia sailed from Trinidad and the West Indies aboard the S.S. Dominica on 31 July 1928, arriving in New York City on 9 August 1928. Many American residents were taking trips to the Caribbean in the 1920s to enjoy a respite from Prohibition.
On 16 April 1930, John and Alberta as well as a servant Learline Meek lived at 5418 Kipling Road in Pittsburgh. They owned their home, valued at $22,000 and also had a radio. He was still working as a department store buyer.
The couple’s whereabouts have not been determined after 1930. Flynn probably died before 1940. Sarah Alberta is thought to have died in 1950.