According to his attestation papers signed on May 15, 1916 Joseph Woolley was born in South Staffordshire, England on June 15, 1883. He listed his wife Minnie Woolley as his next of kin. He was a mechanic by trade and indicated that he had had previous military experience with the 12th York Rangers. He was 32 years and 11 months old and was 5 feet 2 inches tall. He had brown eyes and dark hair and complexion. He was a member of the Church of England.
According to the 1912 Toronto city directory he was working as a carpenter and living on the east side of Lake Crescent.