Reisha Raney's role in Friday night's Daughters of the American Revolution ceremony for the military was minor. She carried Virginia's flag in a procession that walked down a carpeted aisle at Constitution Hall.

But for Raney, an African-American raised in Prince George's County, Maryland, and a descendant of Thomas Jefferson's nephew, it was one of the most pivotal moments in her life. Her place in the DAR, a predominantly white organization whose annual convention in Washington at DAR Constitution Hall ended Sunday, was proof of her extraordinary family history.

The group certified research that traced Raney's roots to William Turpin, a patriot who fought against the British in the Revolutionary War. Turpin's mother was Mary Jefferson, the aunt of America's third president, Thomas Jefferson.