UK & World News
Romney Clan Traced Back To Barrow-In-Furness
Mitt Romney's fight to become America's next president has the backing of one enthusiastic group of supporters, although they don't actually have a vote.
Not many Britons associate the Republican candidate with England, but it was in the country's industrial North West that Mr Romney's ancestors lived and worked for generations.
They converted to Mormonism before leaving Cumbria and Lancashire for the United States in 1841, in search of the Promised Land.
It was a bold escape for a family of lowly carpenters. By sailing for the New World they took a step that eventually brought the Romney clan to the fore of American politics.
But some of them stayed, and their descendants still live along Britain's rainy western coast - a world away from the intrigue and glamour of Washington.
One is a 69-year-old English widow who discovered just a few weeks ago that she is a distant cousin of the former governor of Massachusetts.
"It's all come out of the blue," Jennie Iveson said in her modest home in Barrow-in-Furness, a shipyard town once at the heart of Britain's industrial revolution.
"It's a surprise really. Quite a surprise. Big surprise."
Ms Iveson's link to Mr Romney came to light when her inquisitive grandson-in-law began tracing back their family history by delving into archives.
Records show Ms Iveson is the presidential candidate's fourth cousin - they share a great-great-great grandfather, George Romney, who died in 1859.
And now she can't help but notice her distant American relative does bear a striking family resemblance.
"I saw him on the telly twice the other day, last week I think. He looks a bit like my brother," said Ms Iveson, a retired factory worker, most of whose children have no jobs.
She offers a shrug and a smile when asked about Mr Romney's wealth and privileged status in the United States, where he is sometimes accused by critics of being out of touch with poor people.
Mr Romney is one of the wealthiest Americans ever to run for the White House. He has estimated his fortune at between $190m and $250m.
But his English roots remain a sensitive issue, partly because his Mormon religion is still regarded with suspicion by some American voters.
When he came to Britain in July this year, Mr Romney did not visit the area where his family comes from - unusual since emphasising a European heritage is often seen as an electoral plus in US politics.
Barack Obama, who faces Mr Romney in the November 6 presidential election, went down well last year when he toured an Irish village where one of his forebears once lived.
Mr Romney's campaign spokeswoman made no comment when asked how the Republican challenger felt about his English origins.
In Lancashire, Mr Romney enthusiasts offered their own explanation.
"He is Mormon and this is Mormon central," said Christopher Nelson, a local vicar with an interest in Mr Romney's heritage.
"Perhaps he would perceive (coming here) as highlighting his Mormonism more than highlighting his roots."
His known relatives in England are genealogically so far removed that many of them were not even aware of the link until recently when the US election campaign began to gather pace.
Amateur genealogist Simon Nash was astonished to discover while digging into regional records that his wife Maria was Mr Romney's fourth cousin twice removed.
Poring over archive material and photos on his laptop at his home in Preston, Mr Nash said it was a matter of tracing people back to a common ancestor - a fairly easy task since most records are available publicly in Britain.
Maria Nash was equally astounded by his researches.
"I was very much shocked ... It still feels like ... it's not quite happening to (me)," said Mrs Nash, who is Ms Iveson's granddaughter. "It's quite an unreal feeling."
Would she like to meet Mr Romney in the White House?
"I think it would be very surreal," she said with a shy giggle. "I would like to go there for a brew (cup of tea) if he ever got in there."