This paper presents the methodology used in the qualitative component of a longitudinal study of poverty dynamics in rural and urban areas of KwaZulu-Natal province in South Africa. It combined socio-economic panel survey data that had been collected five years apart, with in-depth, semi-structured household interviews, focus group interviews, key informant interviews and observation, three years later. It also developed a unique participatory method to conduct qualitative household interviews, with multiple household members constructing visual family histories. Notably, qualitative methods were used to delve underneath apparent relationships derived from the quantitative data, in order to understand what the numbers were measuring or missing. Iterative analysis of the longitudinal quantitative data and retrospective qualitative data enabled greater analytical insight than is normally available from either type of data alone. In addition, visual methods were developed to explore the composition of ‘the household’, and to gather data from and about household members that may be missed in surveys.