Very little is known about Edward John Nichols. He was the first child of William Nichols and Mary Ann Nichols, He was born sometime in 1866, two years after his parents had married. He was estranged from his father after his parents separated, which occurred in 1880 or 1881, when Edward was 14 or 15. He went to live with his maternal grandfather, Edward Walker. He became an engineer in the intervening years between this estrangement and his mother's death in 1888.
After his mother was murdered, the first victim of notorious serial killer Jack the Ripper, he went along with his grandfather and father to identify the body. Though there is no indication that he and his mother had remained in contact during the seven or eight years after her separation from his father, he showed no sign of malice or anger towards his mother.