Objective: Ideally, life course data are collected prospectively through an ongoing longitudinal study. We report adaptive multimethod fieldwork procedures that gathered life history data by mail survey and telephone interview, comparable with the face-to-face methods employed in the English Longitudinal Study on Ageing (ELSA). Design: The Australian Life Histories and Health (LHH) Survey was a substudy of the Australian 45 and Up Study, with data collection methods modified from the ELSA Study. A self-complete questionnaire and life history calendar were completed by the participants, followed by a computer-assisted telephone interview recording key life events. Results: The LHH survey developed and tested procedures and instruments that gathered rich life history data within an ongoing Australian longitudinal survey on ageing. Data collection proved to be economical. The use of a self-complete questionnaire in conjunction with a life history calendar and coordinated computer-assisted telephone interview was successful in collecting retrospective life course information, in terms of being thorough, practical and efficient. This study has a diverse collection of data covering the life course, starting with early life experiences and continuing with socioeconomic and health exposures and outcomes during adult life. Conclusions: Mail and telephone methodology can accurately and economically add a life history dimension to an ongoing longitudinal survey. The method is particularly valuable for surveying widely dispersed populations. The results will facilitate understanding of the social determinants of health by gathering data on earlier life exposures as well as comparative data across geographical and societal contexts.