According to his attestation papers dated September 2, 1915 at Toronto, John Neil was born on March 8, 1876 in Paisley, Scotland. He listed his wife, Sarah Neil, Fifth Street, New Toronto as his next of kin. He indicated that he was a paper mill worker and that he had no previous military experience. He was 39 years and 5 months of age and stood 5 feet 3 3/4 inches tall. He had grey eyes, brown hair and a fair complexion. He had a scar on the end of his index finger of his left hand and a scar on the first finger of his right hand. He was a Presbyterian.
He is listed in the 1911 census with his wife Sarah with sons John and Arthur and daughters Isa and Sadie. He emigrated to Canada with his family in 1904.