Quick. Think of all the Seans, Bridgets and Michaels you know. Quite a lot huh?

Irish names are all the rage now but they nearly died out in Britain in the mid-19th century because immigrants were afraid to give their children Irish names in case that made them the target of discrimination.

Research at two major British universities shows that the Irish gave their children Protestant names in an effort to help them blend in.

Studies from Durham and Northumbria universities shows that Irish immigrants refused to give their children Irish names like Patrick in case they were discriminated against.

Instead, English Protestant first names such as George and William were far more prevalent in second-generation Irish families in Britain.

The studies looked at 30,000 records and found that Irish parents overwhelmingly decided against names like Mary or Patrick.

Dr. Malcolm Smith, from Durham University’s Anthropology Department, said: "We think that people chose to avoid traditional names to minimize prejudice rather than people simply being influenced by general or English names."

“In some of our other work, we have found that prejudice against the Irish immigrant community was quite common.

"At the time, there was a feeling among the British public that the Irish would come and take over their jobs and possibly even spread disease.

"This would explain why the Irish immigrants tried to take steps to hide their Irish identity to avoid discrimination,” he said.

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