Peter Morton Coan

The Ohio Connection

At age 40, as the New York author was writing the final pages of his acclaimed work on Ellis Island, Peter Morton Coan stumbled upon news of his own heritage.

Coan learned that his biological mother had given birth to a son at a Cleveland Hospital in 1956. Martha Musselman Mehaffey was divorced and single when she made the choice to place her newborn up for adoption.

Coan’s adoptive parents were never forthcoming with details of his birth, that is, until Peter was approaching middle age with two children of his own. As he grappled with what to do with the astonishing news of his birthplace, Coan realized that his nearly-finished book held the answer. In an author’s appeal at the end of his book, Ellis Island Interviews (1998), Coan asked readers to help him find his birth parents. The Cleveland Plain Dealer published a story about the author’s search, leading to a reunion with his mother, now living in Cincinnati.

Since discovering his Midwest heritage, Coan has enjoyed getting to know his birth mother and other blood relatives from Ohio.

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