Kinnear was the son of Christian Boyd Greenshields and her husband, Charles Kinnear of Kinloch. He was educated at the University of Edinburgh and the University of St Andrews. He became a Scottish Advocate in 1850 and from 1852 to 1856 was political secretary to the Lord Advocate of Scotland James Moncreiff. In 1855 he was called to the bar at Inner Temple and was a J.P. He was an extensive writer on jurisprudence and other topics including religion and women's rights.
He died at the age of 92.
Kinnear married Sarah Harriet Frith in 1852. She died in 1866 and he married Teresa Bassano of Venice in 1868.
- A comparison of the bankruptcy systems of England and Scotland W. Maxwell, 1858
- Suggestions relative to the improvement of Court of Session procedure Bell and Bradfute, 1863
- Digest of House of Lords cases decided on appeal from Scotland, 1709 to 1864 Bell & Bradfute, 1865
- The right of women to labour F. Bell, 1873
- Principles of property in land Smith, Elder, 1880
- Principles of Civil Government Smith, Elder & Co., 1887
- The education of women Women's Emancipation Union, 1892
- The foundations of religion Smith, Elder & Co., 1905
- "Principles of Property" Smith, Elder & Co., 1914
- Leigh Rayment's Historical List of MPs – Constituencies beginning with "F"
- Debretts Guide to the House of Commons 1886
- Open Library – John Boyd Kinnear
- Craig, F. W. S. (1989) . British parliamentary election results 1885–1918 (2nd ed.). Chichester: Parliamentary Research Services. p. 539. ISBN 0-900178-27-2.
- George W. Russell (1977). Politics and Personalities, with Other Essays. Ayer Company Publishers, Incorporated. p. 275. ISBN 978-0-8369-0844-2.
- Dictionary of Scottish Architects: Kinnear
- Hansard 1803–2005: contributions in Parliament by John Boyd Kinnear