John was born in 1798 in Ard Mhacha, then Ireland, today Northern Ireland. The meaning of the surname is “disputation”. He was called Jan. A farrier by profession came to South Africa as part of the 1820 British Settlers. He and his wife were part of a party of Irish people. This party was the only party from Ireland. They were part of Walter Synnot’s party together with 23 other passengers, The ship they arrived on was called “Fanny” and the ship’s Captain was Thomas F Sadler. The “Fanny” departed from Corcaigh, Ireland on 12 February 1820. They arrived on 1May 1820 at Simon's Town and then arrived on 17 May 1850 in Saldanha Bay. Land was allocated to them next to the Groot Seekoei Valley (today Clanwilliam). John married a fellow Irish born, Johanna Maria MOFFAT (* 1799). Some sources show her name as Joanna. They were married in Ireland before they arrived in South Africa.
His second marriage was with Christina Johanna HOLZHAUSEN on 22 April 1868.
He had one son with Catharina and one daughter and two sons with Christina.