For a really free website, one with no ads, no banners, and no gimmicks of any kind, I recommend Google (yes, Google!) and their Google Sites offer.
You can build a handsome, flexible website. You don't need to know HTML coding...just use the site templates to get started, and modify them to your heart's content as you get familiar with the website-building process.
If you opt for free hosting at Google Sites, then your website will have a pretty ugly but ultimately livable url like sites.google.com/site/yourwebsitename. But for a small cost, about ten bucks a year, you can easily host your free site at yourwebsitename.com. Here's an example of Digital State Archives, a free Google Site that I've been slowly building. One day, it will be done. I promise.
Need more information? Newspaper archives are one of the best online research tools. If you're searching for information on people, try Intelius.