One of the fundamental issues in American forest policy has been the small forest ownership problem. Early in the twentieth century, it was called the farm forestry problem, later, the nonindustrial private forest problem, and today, the family forest problem. Family forest owners are thought to manage their lands in a suboptimal manner resulting in low forest productivity relative to other ownership groups. This can lead to future timber supply problems. The exact nature of the problem, especially its social and economic basis, was a common subject of early forestry research studies. This article includes many of the major nonindustrial private forest or family forest studies, from early to current, and classifies them both by themes used by other authors and categories that relate to major research areas in the current literature. A major focus of this literature deals with promoting management on family forest holdings and possible land management incentives and disincentives. Natural trends in family forest ownership, like parcelization, also impact upon forest management opportunities. By developing a taxonomy that classifies these studies by research objective, methodology, owner motivation, and problem definition, this article serves to organize the family forest literature in a manner that provides a temporal framework for better understanding the historical motivation for and development of family forest research in the United States.